SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Genentech, a member of the Roche Group (SIX: RO, ROG; OTCQX: RHHBY), today announced that Venclexta® (venetoclax) in combination with azacitidine has been granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation (BTD) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of adult patients with previously untreated intermediate, high- and very high-risk myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) based on the revised International Prognostic Scoring System (IPSS-R). MDS are a rare group of blood cancers that gradually affect the ability of the bone marrow to produce normal blood cells. This can lead to weakness, frequent infections, anemia and debilitating fatigue that can profoundly affect a person’s quality of life. In some cases, MDS can also progress into acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Every year in the United States, approximately 10,000 people are diagnosed with MDS, and the median survival for those with higher-risk MDS is approximately 18 months.
“Higher-risk MDS is associated with poor prognosis, reduced quality of life, and limited treatment options,” said Levi Garraway, M.D., Ph.D., chief medical officer and head of Global Product Development. “We are pleased that the FDA has granted Venclexta its sixth Breakthrough Therapy Designation in recognition of its potential to improve outcomes for people with MDS in combination with azacitidine.”
This designation was granted based on interim results from the Phase Ib M15-531 study investigating Venclexta plus azacitidine in people with previously untreated, higher-risk MDS. BTD is designed to accelerate the development and review of medicines intended to treat serious or life-threatening conditions with preliminary evidence that indicates they may demonstrate a substantial improvement over existing therapies. This is the 38th BTD for Genentech’s portfolio of medicines, and the 11th designation for its hematology portfolio.
This most recent designation reinforces the potential of Venclexta-based combinations across several blood cancers, including MDS. In the United States, Venclexta has been granted six BTDs by the FDA: one for previously untreated chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), two for relapsed or refractory CLL, two for previously untreated AML, and one for MDS. Venclexta is already approved in the United States in combination with azacitidine, decitabine or low-dose cytarabine for the treatment of newly diagnosed AML in adults 75 years or older, or who have comorbidities that preclude use of intensive induction chemotherapy, and in the European Union in combination with hypomethylating agents, azacitidine and decitabine, for the treatment of adult patients with newly diagnosed AML who are ineligible for intensive chemotherapy. Venclexta is also approved in the United States and European Union in combination with Rituxan® (rituximab) for the treatment of adult patients with CLL who have received at least one prior therapy; in combination with Gazyva® (obinutuzumab) for the treatment of adult patients with previously untreated CLL; and as a monotherapy for the treatment of CLL in the presence of 17p deletion or TP53 mutation in people who are unsuitable for or have failed a B-cell receptor pathway inhibitor.
Venclexta is being developed by AbbVie and Genentech, a member of the Roche Group. It is jointly commercialized by the companies in the United States and commercialized by AbbVie outside of the United States.
About Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS)
MDS are a rare group of blood cancers that gradually affect the ability of the bone marrow to produce normal blood cells. This can lead to weakness, frequent infections, anemia and debilitating fatigue. In some cases, MDS can also progress into acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Every year in the United States, approximately 10,000 people are diagnosed with MDS, and the median survival for those with higher-risk MDS is approximately 18 months.
There are several classifications of MDS – very low-risk to very high-risk – determined by the composition of the bone marrow, blood cell counts, and chromosomal alterations. Higher-risk disease is defined as intermediate, high- or very high-risk based on the revised International Prognostic Scoring System (IPSS-R), which is a risk assessment scale that uses five prognostic indicators to predict the course of a patient’s disease. Approximately half (45%) of patients present with higher-risk MDS, which is associated with a poorer prognosis and short life expectancy.
About the M15-531 study
The M15-531 [NCT02942290] study is a Phase Ib, open-label, non-randomized, multicenter, dose-finding study evaluating Venclexta® (venetoclax) in combination with azacitidine in treatment-naïve patients with higher-risk myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) comprising a dose-escalation portion and a safety expansion portion. The primary objectives of the study are to assess the safety profile and pharmacokinetics and determine the recommended Phase II dose and dosing schedule of Venclexta in combination with azacitidine. The response criteria specified in the M15-531 study are based on the modified International Working Group 2006 response criteria for MDS.
Venclexta is a first-in-class targeted medicine designed to selectively bind and inhibit the B-cell lymphoma-2 (BCL-2) protein. In some blood cancers and other tumors, BCL-2 builds up and prevents cancer cells from dying or self-destructing, a process called apoptosis. Venclexta blocks the BCL-2 protein and works to help restore the process of apoptosis.
Venclexta is being developed by AbbVie and Genentech, a member of the Roche Group. It is jointly commercialized by the companies in the United States and commercialized by AbbVie outside of the United States. Together, the companies are committed to research with Venclexta, which is currently being studied in clinical trials across several types of blood cancers.
Venclexta is a prescription medicine used:
- to treat adults with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) or small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL).
- in combination with azacitidine, or decitabine, or low-dose cytarabine to treat adults with newly-diagnosed acute myeloid leukemia (AML) who:
‒ are 75 years of age or older, or
‒ have other medical conditions that prevent the use of standard chemotherapy.
It is not known if Venclexta is safe and effective in children.
Important Safety Information
What is the most important information patients should know about Venclexta?
Venclexta can cause serious side effects, including:
Tumor lysis syndrome (TLS). TLS is caused by the fast breakdown of cancer cells. TLS can cause kidney failure, the need for dialysis treatment, and may lead to death. The patient’s doctor will do tests to check their risk of getting TLS before they start taking Venclexta. The patient will receive other medicines before starting and during treatment with Venclexta to help reduce the risk of TLS. The patient may also need to receive intravenous (IV) fluids into their vein.
The patient’s doctor will do blood tests to check for TLS when the patient first starts treatment and during treatment with Venclexta. It is important for patients to keep appointments for blood tests. Patients should tell their doctor right away if they have any symptoms of TLS during treatment with Venclexta, including fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, confusion, shortness of breath, seizures, irregular heartbeat, dark or cloudy urine, unusual tiredness, or muscle or joint pain.
Patients should drink plenty of water during treatment with Venclexta to help reduce the risk of getting TLS.
Patients should drink 6 to 8 glasses (about 56 ounces total) of water each day, starting 2 days before the first dose on the day of the first dose of Venclexta, and each time a dose is increased.
The patient’s doctor may delay, decrease the dose, or stop treatment with Venclexta if the patient has side effects. When restarting Venclexta after stopping for 1 week or longer, the patient’s doctor may again check for the risk of TLS and change the patient’s dose.
What patients should not take Venclexta?
Certain medicines must not be taken when the patient first starts taking Venclexta and while the dose is being slowly increased because of the risk of increased TLS.
- Patients should tell their doctor about all the medicines they take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Venclexta and other medicines may affect each other causing serious side effects.
- Patients must not start new medicines during treatment with Venclexta without first talking with their doctor.
Before taking Venclexta, patients must tell their doctor about all of their medical conditions, including if they:
- Have kidney or liver problems.
- Have problems with body salts or electrolytes, such as potassium, phosphorus, or calcium.
- Have a history of high uric acid levels in the blood or gout.
- Are scheduled to receive a vaccine. Patients should not receive a “live vaccine” before, during, or after treatment with Venclexta, until the patient’s doctor tells them it is okay. If the patient is not sure about the type of immunization or vaccine, the patient should ask their doctor. These vaccines may not be safe or may not work as well during treatment with Venclexta.
- Are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Venclexta may harm an unborn baby. If the patient is able to become pregnant, the patient’s doctor should do a pregnancy test before the patient starts treatment with Venclexta, and the patient should use effective birth control during treatment and for at least 30 days after the last dose of Venclexta. If the patient becomes pregnant or thinks they are pregnant, the patient should tell their doctor right away.
- Are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. It is not known if Venclexta passes into the patient’s breast milk. Patients are instructed to not breastfeed during treatment with Venclexta and for 1 week after the last dose.
What to avoid while taking Venclexta:
Patients should not drink grapefruit juice or eat grapefruit, Seville oranges (often used in marmalades), or starfruit while they are taking Venclexta. These products may increase the amount of Venclexta in the patient’s blood.
What are the possible side effects of Venclexta?
Venclexta can cause serious side effects, including:
- Low white blood cell counts (neutropenia). Low white blood cell counts are common with Venclexta, but can also be severe. The patient’s doctor will do blood tests to check their blood counts during treatment with Venclexta and may pause dosing.
- Infections. Death and serious infections such as pneumonia and blood infection (sepsis) have happened during treatment with Venclexta. The patient’s doctor will closely monitor and treat the patient right away if they have a fever or any signs of infection during treatment with Venclexta.
Patients should tell their doctor right away if they have a fever or any signs of an infection during treatment with Venclexta.
The most common side effects of Venclexta when used in combination with obinutuzumab or rituximab or alone in people with CLL or SLL include low white blood cell count; low platelet count; low red blood cell count; diarrhea; nausea; upper respiratory tract infection; cough; muscle and joint pain; tiredness; and swelling of arms, legs, hands, and feet.
The most common side effects of Venclexta in combination with azacitidine or decitabine or low-dose cytarabine in people with AML include nausea; diarrhea; low platelet count; constipation; low white blood cell count; fever with low white blood cell count; tiredness; vomiting; swelling of arms, legs, hands, or feet; fever; infection in lungs; shortness of breath; bleeding; low red blood cell count; rash; stomach (abdominal) pain; infection in your blood; muscle and joint pain; dizziness; cough; sore throat; and low blood pressure.
Venclexta may cause fertility problems in males. This may affect the ability to father a child. Patients should talk to their doctor if they have concerns about fertility.
These are not all the possible side effects of Venclexta. Patients should call their doctor for medical advice about side effects.
Report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 or http://www.fda.gov/medwatch. Report side effects to Genentech at 1-888-835-2555.
About Genentech in Hematology
For more than 20 years, Genentech has been developing medicines with the goal to redefine treatment in hematology. Today, we’re investing more than ever in our effort to bring innovative treatment options to people with diseases of the blood. For more information visit http://www.gene.com/hematology.
Founded more than 40 years ago, Genentech is a leading biotechnology company that discovers, develops, manufactures and commercializes medicines to treat patients with serious and life-threatening medical conditions. The company, a member of the Roche Group, has headquarters in South San Francisco, California. For additional information about the company, please visit http://www.gene.com.