For patients with epidermal growth factor receptor–mutated non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), adding the vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 (VEGFR-2) inhibitor ramucirumab to standard erlotinib therapy may extend progression-free survival, based on results from the phase 3 RELAY trial.
Considering the acceptable safety profile, this dual regimen should be considered for first-line treatment of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)–mutated disease, according to lead author, of the Kindai University faculty of medicine in Osaka, Japan, and colleagues.
Dual blockade of the EGFR and VEGF pathways is supported by previous studies which pointed to efficacy among EGFR-mutated subgroups, the investigators explained in, noting that ramucirumab appeared to be the best candidate for VEGF pathway inhibition. “Ramucirumab, a human monoclonal IgG1 antibody, selectively targets VEGFR-2, thereby blocking signaling mediated by VEGF-A, VEGF-C, and VEGF-D in NSCLC,” the investigators wrote. “Therefore, ramucirumab has the potential for broader antitumor activity than inhibitors of VEGF-A.”
The trial involved 449 patients with stage IV NSCLC and an EGFR exon 21 substitution or exon 19 deletion. Patients were randomized in a 1:1 ratio to receive either erlotinib (150 mg/day) plus placebo, or erlotinib plus ramucirumab (10 mg/kg every 2 weeks). The primary endpoint was progression-free survival. Secondary endpoints included safety and toxicity, overall survival, and various measures of response.
After a median follow-up of 20.7 months, the addition of ramucirumab was associated with a significantly better median progression-free survival, at 19.4 months, compared with 12.4 months among patients who received erlotinib alone, which translates to a hazard ratio of 0.59 (P less than .0001). In each cohort, 1% of patients achieved a complete response. Partial responses were also highly similar at 75% for ramucirumab versus 74% for placebo.
Turning to safety, ramucirumab was associated with more safety concerns, including a higher rate of grade 3-4 treatment-emergent adverse events (72% vs. 54%), most often hypertension. Serious adverse events were also more frequent with ramucirumab at a rate of 29%, compared with 21% among those who received erlotinib alone.
Despite these differences, the investigators concluded that the dual regimen still offers acceptable tolerability. “Safety was consistent with the established safety profiles of the individual compounds and a metastatic NSCLC population,” they wrote. “The RELAY regimen is therefore a viable new treatment option for the initial treatment of patients with metastatic EGFR-mutated NSCLC.”
The RELAY trial was funded by Eli Lilly. The investigators reported additional relationships with AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Novartis, and others.
SOURCE: Nakagawa K et al. Lancet Oncol. 2019 Oct 4.