Lenvatinib versus Placebo in Radioiodine-Refractory Thyroid Cancer

SUMMARY: The U. S. Food and Drug Administration on February 13, 2015 approved Lenvatinib (LENVIMA®) for the treatment of patients with locally recurrent or metastatic, progressive, RadioActive Iodine (RAI)-refractory Differentiated Thyroid Cancer (DTC). The American Cancer Society estimates that about 62,450 new cases of thyroid cancer will be diagnosed in the United States for 2015 and about 1,950 patients will die of the disease. Thyroid cancer is the most prevalent endocrine malignancy and is classified into three histological groups – Differentiated Thyroid Cancers (94%) which include Papillary (80%), Follicular (11%) and Hürthle cell (3%) histologies, Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma (MTC) representing 4% and Anaplastic (undifferentiated) Thyroid Carcinoma (ATC) representing about 2%. Approximately 20% of the patients with DTC develop local recurrence and 10% develop metastatic disease at 10 years following surgery, radioiodine ablation and TSH suppressive therapy. These tumors lose avidity for iodine and are considered RadioActive Iodine (RAI) refractory. The discovery of genetic alterations in the MAP Kinase pathway as well as the PI3K (Phosphatidylinositol-3-Kinase)-AKT-mTOR pathway in thyroid tumors, has lead to the development of Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors (TKI’s), to target these activated pathways. LENVIMA® is an oral multitargeted TKI which targets Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor (VEGFR)1-3, Fibroblast Growth factor Receptor (FGFR)1-4, Rearranged during Transfection tyrosine kinase receptor (RET), c-KIT, and Platelet Derived Growth Factor Receptor (PDGFR). LENVIMA® differs from other TKIs with antiangiogenesis properties by its ability to inhibit FGFR-1 thereby blocking the mechanisms of resistance to VEGF/VEGFR inhibitors. In addition, it controls tumor cell growth by inhibiting RET, c-KIT, and PDGFR beta and influences tumor microenvironment by inhibiting by FGFR and PDGFR beta. The SELECT trial is a double-blind, multicenter, phase III study in which 392 patients with advanced RAI-refractory Differentiated Thyroid Cancer (DTC) were randomly assigned in a 2:1 ratio to receive LENVIMA® 24 mg PO daily in 28-day cycles (N=261) or placebo (N=131). Both treatment groups were well balanced and pretreatment with one prior Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor (TKI) was allowed. Patients in the placebo group were allowed to cross over and receive open-label LENVIMA®, at the time of disease progression. The primary end point was Progression Free Survival (PFS) and secondary end points included Response Rate, Overall Survival, and safety. The median Progression Free Survival was 18.3 months in the LENVIMA® group and 3.6 months in the placebo group (HR= 0.21; P<0.001). This benefit in PFS associated with LENVIMA® was observed in all pre-specified subgroup of patients including those who had received one prior treatment with a TKI. The objective response rate with LENVIMA® was 64.8% versus 1.5% with placebo (P<0.001) and the median overall survival was not reached in either group. The most frequently reported grade 3 or more adverse events in the LENVIMA® group included hypertension (42.9%) and proteinuria (10%). Approximately 14% of the patients in the LENVIMA® group discontinued the drug due to adverse effects. Exploratory biomarker analyses were performed for BRAF and RAS mutations on tumor tissue and it was noted that LENVIMA® benefitted patients regardless of BRAFor RAS mutation status. The authors concluded that LENVIMA® decreased the risk of disease progression by 79% as compared with placebo and was associated with significant improvements in objective Response Rate among patients with RAI-refractory thyroid cancer. NEXAVAR® (Sorafenib), another multitargeted TKI, is presently available for this group of patients and therefore proper sequencing of LENVIMA® and NEXAVAR® remains unknown although it appears that LENVIMA® has a markedly higher Progression Free Survival compared to NEXAVAR®. Schlumberger M, Tahara M, Wirth LJ, et al. N Engl J Med 2015; 372:621-630