The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Alecensa (alectinib) to treat people with advanced (metastatic) ALK-positive non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose disease has worsened after, or who could not tolerate treatment with, another therapy called Xalkori (crizotinib).
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, with an estimated 221,200 new diagnoses and 158,040 deaths in 2015, according to the National Cancer Institute. An ALK (anaplastic lymphoma kinase) gene mutation can occur in several different types of cancer cells, including lung cancer cells. ALK gene mutations are present in about 5 percent of patients with NSCLC. In metastatic cancer, the disease spreads to new parts of the body. In ALK-positive NSCLC metastatic patients, the brain is a common place for the disease to spread.
"Today's approval provides a new therapy for a group of patients who would have few treatment options once their disease no longer responds to treatment with Xalkori," said Richard Pazdur, M.D., director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "In addition to the primary effect on tumors in the lung, Alecensa clinical trials provide evidence of an effect on tumors that had spread to the brain, which is an important effect for clinicians to understand."
Alecensa is an oral medication that blocks the activity of the ALK protein, which may prevent NSCLC cells from growing and spreading.