New challenges in endpoints for drug development in advanced melanoma.
Ribas A., Hersey P., Middleton MR., Gogas H., Flaherty KT., Sondak VK., Kirkwood JM.
During the past 3 decades, the field of clinical research for the treatment of advanced melanoma lacked significant advances. Available drugs had low antitumor activity and no proven benefit in overall survival. Recently, new drugs developed based on an in-depth understanding of the biology of this disease have shown significant benefit, with ipilimumab and vemurafenib having recently shown a positive impact in overall survival in patients with metastatic melanoma leading to approval in this indication by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This rapid introduction of new active agents is likely to challenge current notions on how to develop future agents for the treatment of melanoma. The strong evidence of benefit for initial agents that modulate immune regulatory checkpoints or target driver oncogenes has spurred great interest in developing other similarly acting agents. However, this will pose problems in the choice of endpoints for the future definitive clinical trials, and the hurdles for achieving these endpoints will be higher given the similar activity for comparator agents or the availability of competing agents for salvage therapy. This new reality will likely require tailoring registrational clinical trial endpoints to the patient benefits shown in early clinical testing. In this perspective article, we illustrate the challenges in the choice of endpoints for registrational trials in metastatic melanoma and that, with an improved understanding of the agent being developed, the design of the registrational programs can be informed by earlier mechanistic studies to define the assumptions for definitive clinical testing.