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FDA Approves Cemiplimab-rwlc for NSCLC With PD-L1 Expression

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The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved cemiplimab-rwlc (Libtayo) for the treatment of advanced non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Specifically, the indication is for first-line treatment as monotherapy for patients with locally advanced or metastatic disease who are not candidates for surgical resection or definitive chemoradiotherapy and whose tumors have a high expression of programmed cell death–ligand-1 (PD-L1) (Tumor Proportion Score > 50%), as determined by an FDA-approved test, with no EGFR, ALK, or ROS1 aberrations.

This is the third indication for cemiplimab-rlwc, a monoclonal antibody and programmed cell death protein–1 inhibitor.

In February, it was approved as the first immunotherapy to treat patients with locally advanced or metastatic basal cell carcinoma that was previously treated with a hedgehog pathway inhibitor or for whom a hedgehog inhibitor is inappropriate.

Cemiplimab-rlwc previously received FDA approval in 2018 for locally advanced or metastatic cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma for patients who were not eligible for curative surgery or radiotherapy. At the time, Karl Lewis, MD, a professor at the University of Colorado Anschutz, Aurora, Colorado, and a trial investigator, predicted that the drug “will change the treatment paradigm for patients with advanced basal cell carcinoma.”

Outperforms Chemotherapy

The approval for use in NSCLC is based on results from the phase 3, open-label EMPOWER-Lung 1 trial, which randomly assigned 710 patients in a 1:1 ratio to receive either cemiplimab-rwlc or platinum-doublet chemotherapy. Patients had either locally advanced NSCLC and were not candidates for surgical resection or definitive chemoradiotherapy, or they had metastatic NSCLC.

Patients in the experimental arm received cemiplimab-rwlc 350 mg intravenously every 3 weeks. The primary efficacy outcome measures were overall survival (OS) and progression-free survival (PFS), determined on the basis of blinded independent central review.

Results showed statistically significant improvements in both outcomes. Median OS was 22.1 months with cemiplimab-rwlc, vs 14.3 months with chemotherapy (hazard ratio [HR], 0.68; P = .0022). Median PFS was 6.2 months, vs 5.6 months (HR, 0.59; P < .0001).

The confirmed overall response rate was 37% for the cemiplimab arm, vs 21% for the chemotherapy arm.

The most common adverse reactions (>10%) with cemiplimab-rlwc were musculoskeletal pain, rash, anemia, fatigue, decreased appetite, pneumonia, and cough.

This approval “means physicians and patients have a potent new treatment option against this deadly disease,” said Naiyer Rizvi, MD, Price Family Professor of Medicine, director of thoracic oncology, and codirector of cancer immunotherapy at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, New York City, in a statement. He was a steering committee member on the EMPOWER-Lung-1 Trial.

“Notably, Libtayo was approved based on a pivotal trial where most chemotherapy patients crossed over to Libtayo following disease progression, and that allowed for frequently underrepresented patients who had pretreated and clinically stable brain metastases or who had locally advanced disease and were not candidates for definitive chemoradiation,” said Rizvi. “This gives doctors important new data when considering Libtayo for the varied patients and situations they treat in daily clinical practice.”

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