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Amgen: Phase III Melanoma treatment, Talimogene Laherparepvec Improves Survival



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Transmission electron micrograph of an unmodified herpes simplex virus

Talimogene Laherparepvec

Amgen Presents Interim Overall Survival Data From Phase 3 Study Of Talimogene Laherparepvec In Patients With Metastatic Melanoma

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif., Nov. 18, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) today announced interim overall survival (OS) results from a pivotal Phase 3 trial evaluating talimogene laherparepvec in patients with unresected stage IIIB, IIIC or IV melanoma compared to granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF). Results will be presented today during an oral session at the 2013 Society for Melanoma Research (SMR) Congress, in Philadelphia   read all at
Talimogene laherparepvec (tal im’ oh jeen la her” pa rep’ vek), often simply called “T-VEC” is a cancer-killing (oncolytic) virus currently being studied for the treatment of melanoma and other advanced cancers. The drug was initially developed by BioVex, Inc. under the name OncoVEXGM-CSFuntil it was acquired by Amgen in 2011. With the announcement of positive results in March 2013, T-VEC is the first oncolytic virus to be proven effective in a Phase III clinical trial.
T-VEC was engineered from herpes simplex 1 (HSV-1), a relatively innocuous virus that normally causes cold sores. A number of genetic modifications were made to the virus in order to:

  • Attenuate the virus (so it can no longer cause herpes)
  • Increase selectivity for cancer cells (so it destroys cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed)
  • Secrete the cytokine GM-CSF (a protein naturally secreted in the body to initiate an immune response)
Summary of genetic modifications
Modification Result
Use of new HSV-1 strain (JS1) Improved tumor cell killing ability compared with other strains
Deletion of ICP34.5 Prevents HSV infection of non-tumor cells, providing tumor-selective replication
Deletion of ICP47 Enables antigen presentation
Earlier insertion of US11 Increases replication and oncolysis of tumor cells
Insertion of human GM-CSF gene Enhances anti-tumor immune response by recruiting and stimulating dendritic cells to tumor site

T-VEC has a dual mechanism of action, destroying cancer both by directly attacking cancer cells and also by helping the immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells. T-VEC is injected directly into a number of a patient’s tumors. The virus invades both cancerous and healthy cells, but it is unable to replicate in healthy cells and thus they remain unharmed. Inside a cancer cell, the virus is able to replicate, secreting GM-CSF in the process. Eventually overwhelmed, the cancer cell lyses (ruptures), destroying the cell and releasing new viruses, GM-CSF, and an array of tumor-specific antigens (pieces of the cancer cell that are small enough to be recognized by the immune system).

The GM-CSF attracts dendritic cells to the site. Dendritic cells are immune cells that process and present antigens to the immune system so that the immune system can then identify and destroy whatever produced the antigen. The dendritic cells pick up the tumor antigens, process them, and then present them on their surface to cytotoxic (killer) T cells. Now the T cells are essentially “programmed” to recognize the cancer as a threat. These T cells lead an immune response that seeks and destroys cancer cells throughout the body (eg, tumors and cancer cells that were not directly injected with T-VEC).

Talimogene laherparepvec MOA.jpg

In this way, T-VEC has both a direct effect on injected tumors and a systemic effect throughout the entire body. Because the adaptive immune system “remembers” a target once it has been identified, there is high likelihood that the effect of an oncolytic virus like T-VEC will be durable (eg, prevent relapse). And it is for this reason that T-VEC does not need to be injected into every tumor, just a few in order to start the immune process.

Clinical efficacy in unresectable melanoma has been demonstrated in Phase II and Phase III clinical trials.

The Phase II clinical trial was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology in 2009. 50 patients with advanced melanoma (most of whom had failed previous treatment) were treated with T-VEC. The overall response rate (patients with a complete or partial response per RECIST criteria) was 26% (16% complete responses, 10% partial responses). Another 4% of patients had a surgical complete response, and another 20% had stable disease for at least 3 months. On an extension protocol, 3 more patients achieved complete responses, and overall survival was 54% at 1 year and 52% at 2 years—demonstrating that responses to T-VEC are quite durable.

Consistent with other immunotherapies, some patients exhibited initial disease progression before responding to therapy because of the time it takes to generate the full immune response. Responses were seen in both injected and uninjected tumors (including those in visceral organs), demonstrating the systemic immunotherapeutic effect of T-VEC. Treatment was extremely well tolerated, with only Grade 1 or 2 drug-related side effects, the most common being mild flu-like symptoms.

Senzer image of skin lesions after talimogene laherparepvec.jpg

Senzer image of internal lesions after talimogene laherparepvec.jpg

Amgen announced the initial results of the Phase III OPTiM trial on Mar. 19, 2013. This global, randomized, open-label trial compared T-VEC with subcutaneously administered GM-CSF (2:1 randomization) in 430 patients with unresectable stage IIIB, IIIC or IV melanoma. The primary endpoint was durable response rate (DRR), defined as a complete or partial tumor response lasting at least 6 months and starting within 12 months of treatment.

T-VEC was proven to offer superior benefits in metastatic melanoma. DRR was achieved in 16% of patients receiving T-VEC compared with only 2% in the GM-CSF control group (P<.0001). The greatest benefit was seen in patient with stage IIIB or IIIC melanoma, with a 33% DRR vs 0% with GM-CSF. The objective response rate (any response) with T-VEC was 26%, with an impressive 11% of patients experiencing a complete response (complete disappearance of melanoma throughout the body). This demonstrated once again that T-VEC has a systemic immune effect that destroys distant, uninjected tumors. According to Financial Times one of the investigators involved questioned the ethics of the trial design, as the control arm received subcutaneous GM-CSF instead of standard care 

A trend toward improved survival with T-VEC was observed in a pre-specified interim analysis of this endpoint, with the final survival data (event-driven) expected in late 2013. At the interim analysis, T-VEC was associated with a 21% reduced risk of death. The most common side effects with T-VEC were fatigue, chills, and fever. No serious side effect occurred in more than 3% of patients in either arm of the study.

The investigators concluded that “T-VEC represents a novel potential [treatment] option for melanoma with regional or distant metastases.” The success of T-VEC in the OPTiM trial represents the first Phase III proof of efficacy for a virus-based oncolytic immunotherapy.


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DR ANTHONY MELVIN CRASTO, Born in Mumbai in 1964 and graduated from Mumbai University, Completed his Ph.D from ICT, 1991,Matunga, Mumbai, India, in Organic Chemistry, The thesis topic was Synthesis of Novel Pyrethroid Analogues, Currently he is working with AFRICURE PHARMA as ADVISOR, earlier assignment was with GLENMARK LIFE SCIENCES LTD, as CONSUlTANT, Retired from GLENMARK in Jan2022 Research Centre as Principal Scientist, Process Research (bulk actives) at Mahape, Navi Mumbai, India. Total Industry exp 32 plus yrs, Prior to joining Glenmark, he has worked with major multinationals like Hoechst Marion Roussel, now Sanofi, Searle India Ltd, now RPG lifesciences, etc. He has worked with notable scientists like Dr K Nagarajan, Dr Ralph Stapel, Prof S Seshadri, etc, He did custom synthesis for major multinationals in his career like BASF, Novartis, Sanofi, etc., He has worked in Discovery, Natural products, Bulk drugs, Generics, Intermediates, Fine chemicals, Neutraceuticals, GMP, Scaleups, etc, he is now helping millions, has 9 million plus hits on Google on all Organic chemistry websites. His friends call him Open superstar worlddrugtracker. His New Drug Approvals, Green Chemistry International, All about drugs, Eurekamoments, Organic spectroscopy international, etc in organic chemistry are some most read blogs He has hands on experience in initiation and developing novel routes for drug molecules and implementation them on commercial scale over a 32 PLUS year tenure till date Feb 2023, Around 35 plus products in his career. He has good knowledge of IPM, GMP, Regulatory aspects, he has several International patents published worldwide . He has good proficiency in Technology transfer, Spectroscopy, Stereochemistry, Synthesis, Polymorphism etc., He suffered a paralytic stroke/ Acute Transverse mylitis in Dec 2007 and is 90 %Paralysed, He is bound to a wheelchair, this seems to have injected feul in him to help chemists all around the world, he is more active than before and is pushing boundaries, He has 100 million plus hits on Google, 2.5 lakh plus connections on all networking sites, 100 Lakh plus views on dozen plus blogs, 227 countries, 7 continents, He makes himself available to all, contact him on +91 9323115463, email, Twitter, @amcrasto , He lives and will die for his family, 90% paralysis cannot kill his soul., Notably he has 38 lakh plus views on New Drug Approvals Blog in 227 countries...... , He appreciates the help he gets from one and all, Friends, Family, Glenmark, Readers, Wellwishers, Doctors, Drug authorities, His Contacts, Physiotherapist, etc He has total of 32 International and Indian awards

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