European Commission approves new label for Novartis drug Glivec®

NovartisNovartis announced that the European Commission (EC) has approved an update to the Glivec® (imatinib)* label to include 36 months of treatment after surgery for adults with KIT (CD117)-positive gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST) who met the inclusion criteria of the pivotal study. This extended treatment regimen has been shown to improve recurrence-free survival and overall survival for these patients with KIT+ GIST compared to patients who received 12 months of treatment after surgery[3].

Adults with KIT+ GIST are at risk of recurrence following surgical removal of the primary tumor. Although complete surgical removal is possible in most patients with KIT+ GIST, many patients develop tumor recurrence or metastasis following surgery and survival following recurrence is poor[2]. The newly updated label states that treatment with Glivec beyond 36 months may delay the onset of tumor recurrences further, while noting that an effect on overall survival has not been determined.

The EC decision follows a positive opinion from the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) and applies in all 27 European Union (EU) member states, plus Norway and Iceland. Approval was based on data from an international, multicenter, open-label, Phase III clinical trial first presented at the 47th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) plenary session in June 2011[1].

Results of the study showed that at five years, 66% of patients taking Glivec for three years after surgery for KIT+ GIST remained free of cancer recurrence compared to 48% who had received Glivec for only one year after surgery (p<0.0001). In addition, at five years, 92% of patients taking Glivec for three years after surgery were alive compared to 82% who had received Glivec for only one year after surgery (p=0.0187)[3].

"This approval marks a key milestone in advancing the post-surgical treatment of GIST for certain patients in Europe, where Glivec is the only available therapy in this setting," said Hervé Hoppenot, President, Novartis Oncology. "With this clinical evidence, physicians now have a strong basis for recommending three years of treatment for these patients with KIT+ GIST after surgery."

Gastrointestinal stromal tumors, or GIST, are a rare, life-threatening cancer of the gastrointestinal tract. They are often difficult to diagnose and to treat because they may not cause any physical symptoms[4]. In the EU, the incidence of GIST is estimated to be more than 5,000 cases each year[5],[6].

Study details
This multicenter, prospective, randomized study for the evaluation of adjuvant treatment with Glivec of histologically confirmed KIT+ GIST was conducted by the Scandinavian Sarcoma Group (SSG) and the Sarcoma Group of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Internistische Onkologie (AIO)[5].

The primary endpoint was to compare, within the first five years, recurrence-free survival in patients with a greater than 50% estimated risk of GIST disease recurrence, following diagnosis and treatment with adjuvant Glivec for either 12 or 36 months. The secondary endpoints included overall survival and treatment safety[1]. Inclusion criteria for risk of recurrence was defined as tumor diameter >5.0 cm and mitotic count >5/50 high power fields (HPFs); or tumor diameter >10.0 cm, any mitotic count; or tumor of any size with a mitotic count >10/50 HPFs; or tumors ruptured into the peritoneal cavity.

Three hundred ninety-seven patients entered the study and the median follow-up was 54 months, from date of randomization to data cut-off. Recurrence-free survival was significantly longer in the 36-month group compared to the 12-month group (HR 0.46, 95% CI 0.32-0.65; p<0.0001; five-year recurrence-free survival 66% vs. 48%, respectively). Patients assigned to 36 months of Glivec had significantly longer overall survival (HR 0.45, 95% CI 0.22-0.89; p=0.0187; five-year overall survival 92% vs. 82%, respectively). Almost all patients experienced side effects while taking Glivec. Glivec was generally well tolerated. The proportion of patients who discontinued Glivec during the assigned treatment period for reasons other than GIST recurrence was 26% in the 36-month group and 13% in the 12-month group[1].

Novartis provided the study drug and supported the study financially. Additional funding was received from the Academy of Finland, Cancer Society of Finland, Sigrid Juselius Foundation and Helsinki University Research Funds.

About Glivec (imatinib)
Glivec® (imatinib) is approved in more than 110 countries for the treatment of all phases of Ph+ CML, for the treatment of adult patients with KIT (CD117)-positive gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST), which cannot be surgically removed and/or have metastasized and for the treatment of adult patients following complete surgical removal of KIT+ GIST.

About Novartis
Novartis provides innovative healthcare solutions that address the evolving needs of patients and societies. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis offers a diversified portfolio to best meet these needs: innovative medicines, eye care, cost-saving generic pharmaceuticals, preventive vaccines and diagnostic tools, over-the-counter and animal health products. Novartis is the only global company with leading positions in these areas. In 2011, the Group's continuing operations achieved net sales of USD 58.6 billion, while approximately USD 9.6 billion (USD 9.2 billion excluding impairment and amortization charges) was invested in R&D throughout the Group. Novartis Group companies employ approximately 124,000 full-time-equivalent associates and operate in more than 140 countries around the world

* Known as Gleevec® (imatinib mesylate) tablets in the US, Canada and Israel.

1. Joensuu H, et al. Twelve vs. 36 months of adjuvant imatinib (IM) as treatment of operable GIST with a high risk of recurrence: Final results of a randomized trial (SSGXVIII/AIO). 47th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Abstract No. LBA1. June 5, 2011.
2. National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN): Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Soft Tissue. Version 2, 2011.
3. Glivec (imatinib) prescribing information. Basel, Switzerland: Novartis International AG.
4. American Cancer Society. Cancer Reference Information. Detailed Guide for Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors.
5. The World Factbook. European Union Population.; July 2010. Available from: Accessed February 2012.
6. Joensuu H. Current perspectives on the epidemiology of gastrointestinal stromal tumors. European Journal of Cancer Supplements. March 2006; Volume 4, Issue 3: 4-9.