Chicago and Darmstadt, Germany (ots/PRNewswire)
- New Data Provides the Basis for the Future Role of Erbitux
(cetuximab) as a Standard in Combination With Platinum-Based
Chemotherapy in the 1st-Line Treatment of Patients With Non-Small
Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)
- Location: Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical
Oncology (ASCO) 2008, Chicago, USA
The addition of Erbitux(R) to a platinum-based chemotherapy
significantly increased overall survival in the 1st-line treatment of
NSCLC.(1) This data was presented today at the plenary session of the
44th American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) congress. The new
findings confirm that Erbitux is the first targeted therapy to show a
significant survival benefit in NSCLC patients across all
"Lung cancer is notoriously difficult to treat and these results
are particularly exciting as they represent one of the most
significant advancements in the treatment of NSCLC in 10 years,"
commented Professor Robert Pirker, lead investigator and Professor of
Clinical Oncology at the University of Vienna, Austria. "This opens
new 1st-line treatment options for NSCLC patients, regardless of
histological type of cancer and sets a new standard in the treatment
of 1st-line NSCLC."
In the pivotal multinational, Phase III FLEX(a) trial, more than
1,100 patients with stage IIIB/IV NSCLC were randomized to receive
Erbitux plus standard platinum-based chemotherapy or chemotherapy
alone. The results demonstrated that in the 1st-line setting,
patients treated with Erbitux experienced significant benefits in
overall survival. Median overall survival was prolonged by 1.2 months
in the combination arm compared to those receiving chemotherapy alone
(11.3 vs 10.1 months).(1)
Patients from the major treatment group (Caucasians, representing
84% of the trial population) experienced a significant increase in
overall survival of 1.4 months compared to those receiving
chemotherapy alone, reflected also in a hazard ratio of 0.8
(p=0.003). In this group, patients with adenocarcinoma receiving
Erbitux had a survival benefit of 1.8 months compared to those in the
The FLEX trial included patients with all histological subtypes,
including adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, as well as ECOG
2 patients who have much worse prognosis than patients with a better
performance status. "Since 94% of patients in the Erbitux plus
chemotherapy arm had stage IV metastatic NSCLC and 17% had
performance status 2, these data are not only robust, but also very
meaningful for the everyday clinical reality in the treatment of
1st-line NSCLC," commented Dr. Wolfgang Wein, Executive Vice
President, Oncology, at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. "This is a
further verification of the outstanding quality of Erbitux
specifically and the oncology program at Merck KGaA in general."
Erbitux was found to be well tolerated in the trial with
manageable and expected side effects across the populations.(1)
The current standard treatment for 1st-line NSCLC includes a
variety of platinum-based chemotherapy doublets.(2) To date, Erbitux
is the first targeted therapy to show a significant survival benefit
in a broad population of patients - including all histological
subtypes - in the 1st-line treatment of NSCLC when added to standard
chemotherapy. The FLEX data support the outcomes of earlier studies
investigating Erbitux in combination with standard chemotherapies in
the 1st-line treatment of NSCLC, in which the addition of Erbitux
increased response rate and overall survival.(3),(4)
Worldwide, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in
men and the second leading cause of cancer death in women.(5)
Approximately 975,000 men and 376,000 women die from the disease each
year.(6) NSCLC accounts for around 80% of lung cancers. Most patients
with NSCLC present with advanced disease which is difficult to
treat.(7) The overall five-year survival rate for lung cancer is
about 16%, compared to 65% for colon cancer, 89% for breast cancer
and 99% for prostate cancer.(8)
(a). FLEX: First-line in Lung cancer with ErbituX
(1). Pirker R, et al. ASCO 2008;Abstract No: 3.
(2). Pfister D, et al. J Clin Oncol 2004;22:330-353.
(3). Butts C, et al. J Clin Oncol 2007;25:5777-5784.
(4). Rosell R, et al. Ann Onc 2008;19:362-369.
(5). Kamangar F, et al. J Clin Oncol 2006;24:2137-2150.
(6). Global Cancer Facts & Figures 2007, American Cancer Society.
(7). Corner J, et al. Thorax 2005;60(4)314-319.
(8). Lung Cancer Information (www.medicinenet.com, accessed May 2008).
ERBITUX(R) is a first-in-class and highly active IgG1 monoclonal
antibody targeting the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). As a
monoclonal antibody, the mode of action of Erbitux is distinct from
standard non-selective chemotherapy treatments in that it
specifically targets and binds to the EGFR. This binding inhibits the
activation of the receptor and the subsequent signal-transduction
pathway, which results in reducing both the invasion of normal
tissues by tumor cells and the spread of tumors to new sites. It is
also believed to inhibit the ability of tumor cells to repair the
damage caused by chemotherapy and radiotherapy and to inhibit the
formation of new blood vessels inside tumors, which appears to lead
to an overall suppression of tumor growth.
The most commonly reported side effect with Erbitux is an
acne-like skin rash that seems to be correlated with a good response
to therapy. In approximately 5% of patients, hypersensitivity
reactions may occur during treatment with Erbitux; about half of
these reactions are severe.
Erbitux has already obtained market authorization in 72
countries. It has been approved for the treatment of colorectal
cancer in 71 countries so far: Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Canada,
Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominican Republic,
Ecuador, El Salvador, the European Union, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong
Kong, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Israel, Kazakhstan, Lebanon,
Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway,
Oman, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Serbia,
Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand,
Ukraine, Uruguay, the US, and Venezuela for use in combination with
irinotecan in patients with EGFR-expressing mCRC who have failed
prior irinotecan therapy. Erbitux is also approved for single-agent
use in: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica,
Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong
Kong, Lebanon, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, the
Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, the US, and Venezuela.
In addition, Erbitux in combination with radiotherapy has been
approved for the treatment of locally advanced squamous cell
carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN) in 65 countries: Argentina,
Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, El
Salvador, the European Union, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Iceland, India,
Indonesia, Israel, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Malaysia,
Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Oman, Panama, Peru, the
Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa,
Switzerland, Taiwan, Ukraine, Uruguay, the US, and Venezuela. In
Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Hong Kong,
Israel, Lebanon, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, the Philippines, Russia,
and the US, Erbitux is also approved as monotherapy in patients with
recurrent and/or metastatic SCCHN who failed prior chemotherapy.
Merck licensed the right to market Erbitux outside the US and
Canada from ImClone Systems Incorporated of New York in 1998. In
Japan, ImClone Systems Incorporated, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company and
Merck jointly develop and, upon approval, commercialize Erbitux.
Merck has an ongoing commitment to the advancement of oncology
treatment and is currently investigating novel therapies in highly
targeted areas, such as the use of Erbitux in colorectal cancer,
squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck and non-small cell lung
cancer. Merck has also acquired the rights for the cancer treatment
UFT(R) (tegafur-uracil) - an oral chemotherapy administered with
folinic acid (FA) for the 1st-line treatment of metastatic colorectal
Merck is also investigating among other cancer treatments the use
of Stimuvax(R) (formerly referred to as BLP25 Liposome Vaccine) in
the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer. The vaccine was granted
fast-track status in September 2004 by the FDA. Merck obtained the
exclusive worldwide licensing rights from Oncothyreon Inc., Bellevue,
About Merck Serono
Merck Serono is the division for innovative prescription
pharmaceuticals of Merck, a global pharmaceutical and chemical group.
Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, Merck Serono discovers,
develops, manufactures and markets innovative small molecules and
biopharmaceuticals to help patients with unmet medical needs. Its
North American business operates in the United States and Canada as
Merck Serono has leading brands serving patients with cancer
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Merck's operating activities come under the umbrella of Merck KGaA,
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