Novartis has published promising data which shows that a combination of its advanced kidney cancer drug Afinitor and its acromegaly therapy Sandostatin LAR shrank pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours in 84% of patients.

The data, from the 160-patient Phase II study called RADIANT-1, was presented at the World Congress on Gastrointestinal Cancer in Barcelona. It showed that patients with advanced pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours who received Afinitor (everolimus) in combination with Sandostatin LAR (octreotide) remained progression-free for a median of 16.7 months.

Patients who took Afinitor monotherapy remained progression-free for 9.7 months and nearly 60% of patients experienced a decrease in tumour size, Novartis said. The company also noted that the results of RADIANT-1 were evaluated to explore biomarkers “that may help identify the patients most likely to benefit from treatment with Afinitor”.

Specifically, this showed that patients who demonstrated an early response on chromogranin A and neuron-specific enolase levels experienced longer time without disease progression. Further evaluation is ongoing in Phase III trials to determine the value of these biomarkers “for determining optimal treatment options for patients with NET”, the firm said.

Alessandro Riva, head of Novartis Oncology Development, said that “we hope that the biomarkers being studied in this trial will provide valuable insights into which patients are most likely to benefit from Afinitor, furthering our aim of providing the right drug for the right patients”.

The company and a number of analysts believe that Afinitor, which is a once-daily, oral treatment that inhibits the mTOR protein, is set for blockbuster status. It was approved in the USA for patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma after failure with two other treatments – Pfizer’s Sutent (sunitinib) or Bayer’s Nexavar (sorafenib) earlier this year.

Afinitor is being studied in multiple cancer types, including NET, renal cell carcinoma, breast, gastric and hepatocellular carcinoma, as well as tuberous sclerosis complex and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.