Biotech Firms Intensify Efforts as Breast Cancer Strikes Younger Patients at Alarming Rate

USA News Group – An alarming rise in early-onset cancers has medical experts very concerned, as cancer cases in younger people are rising sharply. In particular, a surge in cases of breast cancer is being witnessed in Canada, the USA, and the EU, with extra concern to patients thought to be in remission contracting breast cancer a second time, according to a new study from the University of Cambridge. However, there’s still optimism towards new treatments, and significant growth of 9.3% CAGR in the metastatic HR+/HER2- breast cancer market through 2032 has treatment developers working harder to make gains for patients. Among the biotech companies currently making strides are Oncolytics Biotech Inc. (NASDAQ: ONCY) (TSX: ONC), IceCure Medical Ltd (NASDAQ: ICCM), Atossa Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: ATOS), Arvinas, Inc. (NASDAQ: ARVN), and Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) (NEO: PFE).

Following a Fast Track Designation by the FDA in late 2022 for Oncolytics Biotech Inc.’s (NASDAQ: ONCY) (TSX: ONC) drug candidate, pelareorep, for pancreatic cancer treatment, the company is now gaining traction towards another pivotal FDA engagement, this time focusing on breast cancer. Recently, Oncolytics announced that they had submitted a Type C meeting request to the FDA to discuss a forthcoming trial for pelareorep aimed at treating HR+/HER2- metastatic breast cancer (mBC) patients.

“A key focus for Oncolytics in 2024 is defining the regulatory path for pelareorep in breast cancer treatment,” said Matt Coffey, President and CEO of Oncolytics. “We are optimistic that pelareorep, in combination with paclitaxel, could significantly enhance clinical outcomes for patients with HR+/HER2- metastatic breast cancer. Our position is strengthened by encouraging data from two randomized studies (BRACELET-1 and IND-213) and the AWARE-1 study, paving the way for the next phase of pelareorep’s development and registration.”

Dr. Coffey has shared that Oncolytics’ continuous interactions with clinical collaborators and partners have been instrumental in crafting a detailed and persuasive briefing document. The company looks forward to meeting with the FDA in Q2 2024 to finalize the trial design and goals for using pelareorep in treating metastatic breast cancer. This meeting is crucial for advancing this promising therapy toward patient use. With expected survival data from its BRACELET-1 study and constructive dialogues with the FDA, Oncolytics is optimistic that 2024 will be a landmark year for the company and its stakeholders.

“The data from the randomized BRACELET-1 trial showcased compelling results for the pelareorep/paclitaxel combination therapy in HR+/HER2- metastatic breast cancer patients, with a nearly tripled confirmed response rate, a 50% improvement in median progression-free survival, and a hazard ratio of 0.29 compared to the paclitaxel alone control,” said Thomas Heineman, M.D., Ph.D., Chief Medical Officer at Oncolytics. “Importantly, these data support the statistically significant near doubling of median overall survival in another randomized phase 2 study, IND-213, which also evaluated pelareorep and paclitaxel in HR+/HER2- metastatic breast cancer patients.”

Also seeking the FDA’s attention, Israel-based IceCure Medical Ltd (NASDAQ: ICCM) recently reported its final ICE3 breast cancer cryoablation trial results with 100% patient and physician satisfaction and 96.3% recurrence-free rate for its ProSense® System, a minimally-invasive cryoablation technology that destroys tumors by freezing as an alternative to surgical tumor removal.

With this new data in hand, IceCure has submitted final data to the FDA, requesting marketing authorization for ProSense® for the indication of treating patients with early-stage T1 invasive breast cancer with cryoablation and adjuvant hormone therapy. ProSense® has already received FDA Breakthrough Designation and is cleared for use in the US for several other indications, including treating benign tumors of the breast, and tumors in the kidney and liver.

“We believe ICE3 is a ground-breaking study and are excited to report that the efficacy data of our minimally invasive ProSense® cryoablation procedure show similar outcomes in recurrence compared to more invasive breast surgery, the current standard of care for early-stage breast cancer,” said Eyal Shamir, CEO of IceCure. “Initial reimbursement codes are already in place and our U.S. marketing and commercial team is ready, as we await the FDA’s response. Driven by favorable healthcare economics combined with patient satisfaction and demand, we expect rapid adoption pending FDA granting the DeNovo Classification Request for Marketing Approval.”

A new clinical trial was announced by Atossa Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: ATOS) to evaluate the company’s proprietary (Z)-endoxifen in combination with abemaciclib (VERZENIO®), a cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) 4/6 inhibitor marketed by Eli Lilly and Company, in women with ER+/HER2- breast cancer. Set to enroll approximately 20 newly diagnosed women, the new study arm will have participants receiving 40mg (Z)-endoxifen once daily in combination with 150mg abemaciclib twice daily for a total of 24 weeks prior to surgery.

“Endocrine therapy in combination with CDK 4/6 inhibition is a widely used treatment for patients with advanced-stage ER+ breast cancer and as an adjuvant therapy for node positive, hormone positive early-stage disease, found at the time of surgical resection,” said Dr. Laura Esserman, director of the University of California San Francisco Breast Care Center and founder of Quantum Leap Healthcare Collaborative. “Women with high clinical stage but less proliferative tumors (molecularly low risk or those with late recurrence risk) are challenging to treat. Late recurrence is high regardless of either endocrine or chemotherapy. Thus, we are looking for new combined treatments, which can be used in the pre-surgery (neoadjuvant) setting. We look forward to learning more about the potential of (Z)-endoxifen in combination with abemaciclib in the neoadjuvant setting in the I-SPY TRIAL.”

Vepdegestrant (ARV-471) is another treatment that recently received FDA Fast Track Designation, which is a novel oral PROteolysis Targeting Chimera (PROTAC®) ER degrader that is being jointly developed by Arvinas, Inc. (NASDAQ: ARVN), and Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) (NEO: PFE). The ongoing Phase 3 VERITAC-2 clinical trial is evaluating vepdegestrant or fulvestrant in patients with locally advanced or metastatic ER+/HER2- breast cancer who have been previously treated with an endocrine-based therapy.

“The receipt of Fast Track designation reinforces the potential of vepdegestrant to provide an important new therapeutic option for people with ER+/HER2- breast cancer whose disease has progressed,” said Roger Dansey, M.D., Chief Development Officer, Oncology, Pfizer. “We are proud to continue our legacy of developing innovative treatment options for people impacted by metastatic breast cancer and look forward to working with the FDA as we advance our development program for vepdegestrant.”

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