Regional Differences in Efficacy, Safety, and Biomarkers for Second-Line Axitinib in Patients with Advanced Hepatocellular Carcinoma: From a Randomized Phase II Study
Kudo M, Kang YK, Park JW, Qin S, Inaba Y, Assenat E, Umeyama Y, Lechuga MJ, Valota O, Fujii Y, Martini JF, Williams JA and Obi S.
Liver Cancer. 2018;7:148-164.
Background: An unmet need exists for treatment of patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) who progress on or are intolerant to sorafenib. A global randomized phase II trial (ClinicalTrial.gov No. NCT01210495) of axitinib, a vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 1-3 inhibitor, in combination with best supportive care (BSC) did not prolong overall survival (OS) over placebo/BSC, but showed improved progression-free survival in some patients. Subgroup analyses were conducted to identify potential predictive/prognostic factors. Methods: The data from this phase II study were analyzed for the efficacy and safety of axitinib/BSC in patients from Asia versus non-Asia versus Asian subgroups (Japan, Korea, or mainland China/Hong Kong/Taiwan) and predictive/prognostic values of baseline microRNAs and serum soluble proteins, using the Cox proportional hazards model. Results: Of 202 patients, 78 were from non-Asia and 124 from Asia (37 Japanese, 36 Korean, and 51 Chinese). No significant differences in OS were found between axitinib/BSC and placebo/BSC in non-Asians, Asians, or Asian subgroups. However, in an exploratory analysis, axitinib/BSC showed favorable OS in Asians, especially Japanese, when patients intolerant to prior antiangiogenic therapy were excluded from the data set. Axitinib/BSC was well tolerated by non-Asians and Asians alike. The presence of 4 circulating microRNAs, including miR-5684 and miR-1224-5p, or a level lower than or equal to the median protein level of stromal cell-derived factor 1 at baseline was significantly associated with longer OS in axitinib/BSC-treated Asians or non-Asians. Conclusions: Axitinib/BSC did not prolong survival over placebo/BSC in non-Asians, Asians, or Asian subgroups, but favorable OS with axitinib/BSC was observed in a subset of Japanese patients. A patient population that excludes sorafenib-intolerant patients might potentially be more suitable for clinical trials of new agents in advanced HCC. Since these results are very preliminary, further investigation is warranted. The potential predictive/prognostic value of several baseline microRNAs and soluble proteins identified in this study would require validation in prospective studies on a large cohort of patients.