Durvalumab (Imfinzi) has been approved as the first treatment for patients with stage III unresectable non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that has not progressed after chemotherapy and radiation, the Food and Drug Administration announced on Feb. 16.
Chemoradiation had been the only option for such patients. “Although a small number of patients may be cured with the chemoradiation, the cancer may eventually progress. Patients now have an approved therapy that has been shown to keep the cancer from progressing for a longer time after chemoradiation,” Richard Pazdur, MD, 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, said in a press release.
Durvalumab, which targets the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway, was previously granted accelerated approval in 2017 for the treatment of certain patients with locally advanced or metastatic bladder cancer.
The approval for the treatment of stage III, unresectable NSCLC was based on the results of the randomized PACIFIC trial of 713 patients whose cancer had not progressed after completing chemotherapy and radiation. The trial measured progression-free survival with durvalumab or a placebo, and found a median progression-free survival of 16.8 months for patients taking durvalumab and 5.6 months for patients receiving a placebo. The drug's sponsor, AstraZeneca, has agreed to provide data on overall survival in the study.
Common side effects of durvalumab in patients with stage III unresectable NSCLC include cough, fatigue, inflammation in the lungs (pneumonitis/radiation pneumonitis), upper respiratory tract infections, difficulty breathing (dyspnea) and rash.
Serious risks of durvalumab include pneumonitis, hepatitis, colitis, endocrinopathies, and nephritis. Other serious side effects include infection and infusion-related reactions. Durvalumab can cause harm to a developing fetus; women should be advised of the potential risk to the fetus and to use effective contraception.