FDA approves BV plus chemo for untreated cHL


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Brentuximab vedotin

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved brentuximab vedotin (ADCETRIS) in combination with chemotherapy for adults with previously untreated, stage III or IV classical Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL).

This is the fifth approved indication for BV in the US and the first regimen approved for frontline, stage III/IV cHL in the US in more than 40 years.

“The standard of care for treating newly diagnosed, advanced Hodgkin lymphoma has not changed in more than 4 decades,” said Joseph M. Connors, MD, of BC Cancer in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

“For years, the physician community has been conducting clinical trials to identify improved regimens that are both less toxic and more effective—to no avail.”

The ECHELON-1 study changed that, according to Dr Connors.

“The ECHELON-1 study results demonstrated superior efficacy of the ADCETRIS plus chemotherapy regimen, when compared to the standard of care, while removing bleomycin—an agent that can cause unpredictable and sometimes fatal lung toxicity—completely from the regimen,” he said. “This represents a meaningful advance for this often younger patient population.”

In the phase 3 ECHELON-1 trial, researchers compared BV plus doxorubicin, vinblastine, and dacarbazine (A+AVD) to doxorubicin, bleomycin, vinblastine, and dacarbazine (ABVD).

In addition to supporting the new approval for BV in cHL, ECHELON-1 results also served to convert an accelerated approval of BV to standard approval. The drug now has standard FDA approval for the treatment of adults with systemic anaplastic large-cell lymphoma (ALCL) who have failed at least 1 prior multi-agent chemotherapy regimen.

BV also has standard FDA approval for:

  • Adults with cHL who have failed autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplant (auto-HSCT) or, in those who are not auto-HSCT candidates, have failed at least 2 prior multi-agent chemotherapy regimens
  • Post-auto-HSCT consolidation in adults with cHL at high risk of relapse or progression
  • Adults with primary cutaneous ALCL or CD30-expressing mycosis fungoides who have received prior systemic therapy.


Result from ECHELON-1 were presented at the 2017 ASH Annual Meeting and simultaneously published in NEJM.

In this trial, researchers compared A+AVD to ABVD as frontline treatment for 1334 patients with advanced cHL. The primary endpoint was modified progression-free survival (PFS), which was defined as time to progression, death, or evidence of non-complete response after completion of frontline therapy followed by subsequent anticancer therapy.

According to an independent review facility, A+AVD provided a significant improvement in modified PFS compared to ABVD. The hazard ratio was 0.77 (P=0.035), which corresponds to a 23% reduction in the risk of progression, death, or the need for additional anticancer therapy.

The 2-year modified PFS rate was 82.1% in the A+AVD arm and 77.2% in the ABVD arm.

There was no significant difference between the treatment arms when it came to response rates or overall survival.

The objective response rate was 86% in the A+AVD arm and 83% in the ABVD arm (P=0.12). The complete response rate was 73% and 70%, respectively (P=0.22).

The interim 2-year overall survival rate was 97% in the A+AVD arm and 95% in the ABVD arm (hazard ratio=0.72; P=0.19).

The overall incidence of adverse events (AEs) was 99% in the A+AVD arm and 98% in the ABVD arm. The incidence of grade 3 or higher AEs was 83% and 66%, respectively, and the incidence of serious AEs was 43% and 27%, respectively.

Neutropenia, febrile neutropenia, and peripheral neuropathy were more common with A+AVD, while pulmonary toxicity was more common with ABVD.

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