The FDA approved the first radioactive drug, or radiopharmaceutical, to treat a rare type of cancer that affects the pancreas or gastrointestinal tract called gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (GEP-NETs). Lutathera (lutetium Lu 177 dotatate) is cleared for adult patients with somatostatin receptor-positive GEP-NETs.
The FDA Friday approved the first radioactive drug, or radiopharmaceutical, to treat a rare type of cancer that affects the pancreas or gastrointestinal tract called gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (GEP-NETs). Lutathera (lutetium Lu 177 dotatate) is cleared for adult patients with somatostatin receptor-positive GEP-NETs.
GEP-NETs are a rare group of cancers with limited treatment options after initial therapy fails, said Richard Pazdur, M.D., director of the FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence and acting director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.
GEP-NETs can be present in the pancreas and in different parts of the gastrointestinal tract such as the stomach, intestines, colon and rectum. It is estimated that approximately 1 out of 27,000 people are diagnosed with GEP-NETs per year.
Lutathera is a radioactive drug that works by binding to a part of a cell called a somatostatin receptor, which may be present on certain tumors. After binding to the receptor, the drug enters the cell allowing radiation to cause damage to the tumor cells.
Lutathera was granted FDA Priority Review, under which the agency's goal is to take action on an application within 6 months if the agency determines that the drug, if approved, would significantly improve the safety or effectiveness of treating, diagnosing or preventing a serious condition. Lutathera also received orphan drug designation, which provides incentives to assist and encourage the development of drugs for rare diseases.
The approval of Lutathera was supported by two studies. The first was a randomized clinical trial in 229 patients with a certain type of advanced somatostatin receptor-positive GEP-NET. Patients in the trial either received Lutathera in combination with the drug octreotide or octreotide alone. The study measured progression-free survival (PFS) after treatment.
PFS was longer for patients taking Lutathera with octreotide compared to patients who received octreotide alone. This means the risk of tumor growth or patient death was lower for patients who received Lutathera with octreotide compared to that of patients who received only octreotide.
The second study was based on data from 1,214 patients with somatostatin receptor-positive tumors, including GEP-NETS, who received Lutathera at a single site in the Netherlands. Complete or partial tumor shrinkage was reported in 16% of a subset of 360 patients with GEP-NETs. Patients initially enrolled in the study received Lutathera as part of an expanded access program. Expanded access is a way for patients with serious or immediately life-threatening diseases or conditions who lack therapeutic alternatives to gain access to investigational drugs for treatment use.
The FDA granted the approval of Lutathera to Advanced Accelerator Applications.
Common side effects of Lutathera include low levels of white blood cells (lymphopenia), high levels of enzymes in certain organs (increased GGT, AST and/or ALT), vomiting, nausea, high levels of blood sugar (hyperglycemia) and low levels of potassium in the blood (hypokalemia).
Serious side effects of Lutathera include low levels of blood cells (myelosuppression), development of certain blood or bone marrow cancers (secondary myelodysplastic syndrome and leukemia), kidney damage (renal toxicity), liver damage (hepatotoxicity), abnormal levels of hormones in the body (neuroendocrine hormonal crises) and infertility. Lutathera can cause harm to a developing fetus; women should be advised of the potential risk to the fetus and to use effective contraception.
Patients taking Lutathera are exposed to radiation. Exposure of other patients, medical personnel, and household members should be limited in accordance with radiation safety practices.