The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted accelerated approval to Bavencio (avelumab) for the treatment of adults and pediatric patients 12 years and older with metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), including those who have not received prior chemotherapy. This is the first FDA-approved treatment for metastatic MCC, a rare, aggressive form of skin cancer.
"While skin cancer is one of the most common cancers, patients with a rare form called Merkel cell cancer have not had an approved treatment option until now," said Richard Pazdur, M.D., acting director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research and director of the FDA's Oncology Center of Excellence. "The scientific community continues to make advances targeting the body's immune system mechanisms for the treatment of various types of cancer. These advancements are leading to new therapies-even in rare forms of cancer where treatment options are limited or non-existent."
According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 1,600 people in the United States are diagnosed with MCC every year. While the majority of patients present with localized tumors that can be treated with surgical resection, approximately half of all patients will experience recurrence, and more than 30 percent will eventually develop metastatic disease. In patients with metastatic MCC, the cancer has spread beyond the skin into other parts of the body.
Bavencio targets the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway (proteins found on the body's immune cells and some cancer cells). By blocking these interactions, Bavencio may help the body's immune system attack cancer cells.
Bavencio received an Accelerated Approval, which enables the FDA to approve drugs for serious conditions to fill an unmet medical need using clinical trial data that is thought to predict a clinical benefit to patients. Further clinical trials are required to confirm Bavencio's clinical benefit and the sponsor is currently conducting these studies.