Among patients with previously treated, metastatic colorectal cancer, the addition of the targeted therapy Vectibix® (panitumumab) to chemotherapy delayed cancer progression. This benefit was only observed in patients whose tumors did not contain a mutation in the KRAS gene. These results were made available in a press release from Amgen.
Colorectal cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States. Metastatic colorectal cancer refers to cancer that has spread from the colon to distant sites in the body.
Targeted therapies are anticancer drugs that interfere with specific pathways involved in cancer cell growth or survival. Some targeted therapies block growth signals from reaching cancer cells; others reduce the blood supply to cancer cells; and still others stimulate the immune system to recognize and attack the cancer cell. Depending on the specific “target,” targeted therapies may slow cancer cell growth or increase cancer cell death.
Vectibix inhibits cancer cell growth and survival by targeting a protein known as the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). Vectibix has been approved for the treatment of EGFR-expressing, metastatic colorectal cancer that has progressed on or following fluoropyrimidine-, oxaliplatin-, and irinotecan-containing chemotherapy regimens. Vectibix appears to benefit only those patients whose cancers do not contain a mutation in a gene known as KRAS. KRAS mutations occur in an estimated 40-50% of metastatic colorectal cancers and can be identified by testing a sample of tumor tissue.
To evaluate the effectiveness of Vectibix in the second-line treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer, researchers conducted a Phase III clinical trial among 1,186 patients. Study participants were assigned to receive treatment with FOLFIRI chemotherapy alone or FOLFIRI plus Vectibix.
Among patients without KRAS mutations, the addition of Vectibix significantly improved progression-free survival. Among patients with KRAS mutations, the addition of Vectibix did not affect progression-free survival. Vectibix did not significantly affect overall survival in either study group.
Side effects of Vectibix included skin rash, low magnesium levels, and diarrhea.
The results of this study suggest that the addition of the targeted therapy Vectibix to second-line chemotherapy improves progression-free survival among patients with metastatic colorectal cancer. The benefit only applies to patients whose tumors do not contain KRAS mutations.
Full results from this study are expected to be presented at an upcoming medical meeting.
Reference: Amgen press release. Vectibix® significantly improved progression-free survival in second-line treatment of KRAS wild-type metastatic colorectal cancer. Available at: https://wwwext.amgen.com/media/media_pr_detail.jsp?releaseID=1321626. Accessed August 24, 2009.
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