FDA approves first drug for advanced cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Libtayo (cemiplimab-rwlc) injection for intravenous use for the treatment of patients with metastatic cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (CSCC) or locally advanced CSCC who are not fit for curative surgery or curative radiation.
Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common human cancer in the United States. It usually develops in skin areas that have been regularly exposed to the sun or other forms of ultraviolet radiation. Although a majority of patients with CSCC are cured with surgical resection, a small percentage of patients will develop advanced disease that no longer responds to local treatments including surgery and radiation.
Libtayo works by targeting the cellular pathway known as PD-1 (a protein found on the body’s immune cells and some cancer cells). By blocking this pathway, the drug may help the body’s immune system fight the cancer cells.
“We’re continuing to see a shift in oncology toward identifying and developing drugs aimed at a specific molecular target. With the Libtayo approval, the FDA has approved six immune checkpoint inhibitors targeting the PD-1 / PD-L1 pathway for treating a variety of tumours, from bladder to head and neck cancer, and now advanced CSCC,” said Richard Pazdur, M.D., director of the FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence and acting director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “This type of cancer can be difficult to treat effectively when it is advanced and it is important that we continue to bring new treatment options to patients.”
The safety and efficacy of Libtayo were studied in two open-label clinical trials. A total of 108 patients (75 with metastatic disease and 33 with the locally-advanced disease) were included in the efficacy evaluation. The study’s primary endpoint was objective response rate or the percentage of patients who experienced partial shrinkage or complete disappearance of their tumor(s) after treatment. Results showed that 47.2 per cent of all patients treated with Libtayo had their tumours shrink or disappear. The majority of these patients had ongoing responses at the time of data analysis.
Common side effects of Libtayo include fatigue, rash, and diarrhoea. Libtayo must be dispensed with a patient Medication Guide that describes uses of the drug and its serious warnings. Libtayo can cause the immune system to attack normal organs and tissues in any area of the body and can affect the way they work. These reactions can sometimes become severe or life-threatening and can lead to death. These reactions include the risk of immune-mediated adverse reactions including lung problems (pneumonitis), intestinal problems (colitis), liver problems (hepatitis), hormone gland problems (endocrinopathies), skin (dermatologic) problems and kidney problems. Patients should also be monitored for infusion-related reactions.
Libtayo can cause harm to a developing fetus; women should be advised of the potential risk to the fetus and to use effective contraception.