Novartis announced today that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Kymriah(TM)(tisagenlecleucel) suspension for intravenous infusion, formerly CTL019, the first chimeric antigen receptor T cell (CAR-T) therapy, for the treatment of patients up to 25 years of age with B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) that is refractory or in second or later relapse. Kymriah is a novel immunocellular therapy and a one-time treatment that uses a patient's own T cells to fight cancer. Kymriah is the first therapy based on gene transfer approved by the FDA.
"At Novartis, we have a long history of being at the forefront of transformative cancer treatment," said Joseph Jimenez, CEO of Novartis. "Five years ago, we began collaborating with the University of Pennsylvania and invested in further developing and bringing what we believed would be a paradigm-changing immunocellular therapy to cancer patients in dire need. With the approval of Kymriah, we are once again delivering on our commitment to change the course of cancer care."
"We are so proud to be part of this historic moment in cancer treatment and are deeply grateful to our researchers, collaborators, and the patients and families who participated in the Kymriah clinical program," said Bruno Strigini, CEO of Novartis Oncology. "As a breakthrough immunocellular therapy for children and young adults who desperately need new options, Kymriah truly embodies our mission to discover new ways to improve patient outcomes and the way cancer is treated."
The FDA has approved a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) for Kymriah. The REMS program serves to inform and educate healthcare professionals about the risks that may be associated with Kymriah treatment. To support safe patient access, Novartis is establishing a network of certified treatment centers throughout the country which will be fully trained on the use of Kymriah and appropriate patient care.
There has been an urgent need for novel treatment options that improve outcomes for patients with relapsed or refractory (r/r) B-cell precursor ALL, whose prognosis is poor. Patients often undergo multiple treatments including chemotherapy, radiation, targeted therapy or stem cell transplant, yet less than 10% of patients survive five years.
Kymriah is an innovative immunocellular therapy that is a one-time treatment. Kymriah uses the 4-1BB costimulatory domain in its chimeric antigen receptor to enhance cellular expansion and persistence. In 2012, Novartis and the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) entered into a global collaboration to further research, develop and commercialize CAR-T cell therapies, including Kymriah, for the investigational treatment of cancers.
"This therapy is a significant step forward in individualized cancer treatment that may have a tremendous impact on patients' lives," said Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor of Immunotherapy, Director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies in Penn's Perelman School of Medicine, who is a pioneer of this new treatment. "Through our collaboration with Novartis, we are creating the next wave of immunocellular cancer treatments, and are eager to progress CAR-T therapy in a host of hematologic and other cancer types."
In close collaboration with Novartis and Penn, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) was the first institution to investigate Kymriah in the treatment of pediatric patients leading the single site trial.
"Tisagenlecleucel is the first CAR-T therapy to demonstrate early, deep and durable remission in children and young adults with relapsed or refractory B-cell ALL," said Stephan Grupp, MD, PhD, the Yetta Deitch Novotny Professor of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at Penn, and Director of the Cancer Immunotherapy Frontier Program at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). "We've never seen anything like this before and I believe this therapy may become the new standard of care for this patient population."
Novartis is committed to ensuring eligible patients have access to Kymriah, and is working to ensure payers understand the value of Kymriah and provide coverage for patients. To address the unique aspects of the therapy, Novartis has also developed various patient access programs to support safe and timely access for patients. Novartis is also providing traditional support to patients by helping them navigate insurance coverage and providing financial assistance for those who are uninsured or underinsured.
Novartis plans additional filings for Kymriah in the US and EU later this year, including applications with the FDA and European Medicines Agency (EMA), for the treatment of adult patients with r/r diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). Additional filings beyond the US and EU are anticipated in 2018.
Groundbreaking Collaboration with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Novartis also announced a novel collaboration with the United States Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) focused on improving efficiencies in current regulatory requirements in order to deliver value-based care and ensure access for this specific patient population.
This approach is intended to include indication-based pricing for medicines and supports payments for a medicine, such as Kymriah for its initial indication, based on the clinical outcomes achieved, which would eliminate inefficiencies from the healthcare system. Other value-based approaches related to future indications for Kymriah and CAR-T cell therapies are under discussion.
Furthermore, Novartis is collaborating with CMS to make an outcomes-based approach available to allow for payment only when pediatric and young adult ALL patients respond to Kymriah by the end of the first month. Future potential indications would be reviewed for the most relevant outcomes-based approach.
"Novartis has been at the forefront of outcomes-based pricing and is very pleased to work with CMS on this first-of-its-kind collaboration with a technology that has the potential to transform cancer care," said Joseph Jimenez, CEO of Novartis. "We look forward to continuing to work with CMS to potentially expand this approach to other products and disease states."
About Kymriah Manufacturing
Kymriah will be manufactured for each individual patient using their own cells at the Novartis Morris Plains, New Jersey facility. Novartis has designed a reliable and integrated manufacturing and supply chain platform that allows for an individualized treatment approach on a global scale. This process includes cryopreservation of a patient's harvested (or leukapheresed) cells, giving treating physicians and centers the flexibility to initiate therapy with Kymriah based on the individual patient's condition. Building on our experience, having manufactured CAR-T cells for over 250 patients from 11 countries across various indications, we have demonstrated a reproducible product. Novartis continues to advance its CAR-T manufacturing expertise in Morris Plains, where we have been supplying CAR-T cells for global clinical trials and where we continue to invest in support of the anticipated demand to meet the needs of patients.
Kymriah Pivotal Study Results
The FDA approval of Kymriah is based on the results of the pivotal open-label, multicenter, single-arm Phase II ELIANA trial, the first pediatric global CAR-T cell therapy registration trial examining patients in 25 centers in the US, EU, Canada, Australia and Japan. In this Novartis-sponsored study, 68 patients were infused and 63 were evaluable for efficacy. Results show 83% (52 of 63; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 71%-91%) of patients who received treatment with Kymriah achieved complete remission (CR) or CR with incomplete blood count recovery (CRi) within three months of infusion. In addition, no minimal residual disease (MRD) - a blood marker that indicates potential relapse - was detected among responding patients. Median duration of remission was not reached (95% CI: 7.5-NE).
The most common (>20%) adverse reactions in the ELIANA trial are cytokine release syndrome (CRS), hypogammaglobulinemia, infections-pathogen unspecified, pyrexia, decreased appetite, headache, encephalopathy, hypotension, bleeding episodes, tachycardia, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, viral infectious disorders, hypoxia, fatigue, acute kidney injury and delirium. In the study, 49% of patients treated with Kymriah experienced grade 3 or 4 CRS, an on-target effect of the treatment that may occur when the engineered cells become activated in the patient's body. CRS was managed globally using prior site education and implementation of the CRS treatment algorithm. Within eight weeks of treatment, 18% of patients experienced grade 3 or 4 neurologic events. There were no incidents of cerebral edema. The most common neurologic events were encephalopathy (34%), headache (37%), delirium (21%), anxiety (13%) and tremor (9%).