From the Journals

ESMO helps hematologists assess new cancer drugs



The European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO), in collaboration with the European Hematology Association, has released a tool to help hematologists evaluate the magnitude of clinical benefit expected from new blood cancer treatments.

It consists of 11 2- to 3-page forms with checklists to grade treatment trials on the extent to which they meet efficacy and safety thresholds. Each of the 11 forms covers a specific trial scenario, such as a randomized controlled trial with curative intent or a trial of a therapy that is not likely to be curative with a primary endpoint of overall survival.

Treatments with curative intent are graded A, B, or C, while treatments in the noncurative setting are graded on a descending scale from 5 to 1. Scores of A and B in the curative setting and 5 and 4 in the noncurative setting represent substantial benefit.

On the form for RCTs with curative intent, for instance, a survival improvement of 5% or more garners an A but an improvement of less than 3% gets a C. Scores are also annotated for serious acute and/or persistent toxicity if present.

The tool, dubbed the ESMO-MCBS:H (European Society for Medical Oncology Magnitude of Clinical Benefit Scale: Hematology), is explained in an article published in Annals of Oncology. The evaluation forms are available online.

The idea behind the work is to help health care professionals and others to more “accurately assess the value of and prioritise therapies for patients with blood cancers. For clinicians, ESMO-MCBS:H will aid in their clinical decision-making and in the development of evidence-based practice and guidelines,” ESMO said in a press release.

To develop ESMO-MCBS:H, the group tailored its tool for evaluating solid tumor therapies, the ESMO-MCBS, to account for the sometimes different endpoints used in hematologic malignancy trials and the very indolent nature of some blood cancers, such as follicular lymphoma, which hampers development of mature data.

Specific changes include adding a new evaluation form to grade single-arm trials with curative intent, such as those used for CAR-T-cell therapies; incorporating molecular surrogate endpoints used in CML trials; and adding a way to grade outcomes for indolent cancers, among others.

The development process included applying the solid tumor tool to 80 blood cancer studies to identify shortcomings and improve its applicability. The final tool was field tested with 51 international experts from EHA and ESMO who largely agreed on the reasonableness of the trial scores.

ESMO said it expects ESMO-MCBS:H will be useful. The solid tumor tool, first published in 2015, is used by the World Health Organization to screen medications for its essential medicines list as well as by ESMO to generate guidelines and oncology centers across Europe to help with resource allocation decisions.

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