Here is the second part of my two part interview with Dr. Eric Rubin, Vice President of Merck Oncology, makers of vorinostat–trade name Zolinza:
My understanding is, like many anti-myeloma agents, Zolinza is most effective when combined with other novel therapy agents. Which combinations show the most promise thus far? Why do you think that is?
All of the current clinical trials studying the efficacy of Zolinza in treating multiple myeloma are testing the drug in combination with others, such as bortezomib, Revlimid, dexametasone and lenalidomide to name a few. We can’t speculate on combination success until the data is analyzed. However, based on encouraging data from earlier clinical studies, Merck has accelerated our development program to further evaluate Zolinza in combination with bortezomib for advanced multiple myeloma. This decision affirms our belief in the potential of combining novel targeted agents, such as Zolinza, with chemotherapy in treating multiple myeloma and other types of cancer.
How long before a relapsed/refractory multiple myeloma patient might gain access to Zolinza outside of a clinical trial?
Unfortunately, I can’t speculate on this. As with all clinical trials, we need to focus on each individual step in the process. The next step for both VANTAGE 088 and VANTAGE 095 is to complete enrollment. After completing that milestone, we will have a better sense of the research strategy and timeline moving forward.
Is there any ongoing research using Zolinza in newly diagnosed multiple myeloma patients?
Merck does not have a registration study for newly diagnosed multiple myeloma patients. However, there are ongoing investigator-sponsored studies looking at various combinations of Zolinza in with these types of patients. There will likely be more information about at least one of this investigator-sponsored trials at ASH.
Is your company, Merck, looking at any new anti-myeloma agents besides Zolinza?
In the European Union, Intron-A (InterferonAlfa-2B Recombinant) for Injection is indicated in the treatment of multiple myeloma to help maintain anticancer effects in patients who have responded to previous treatment with anticancer medication. For more detail on the EU indication, you can visit European Trials.
In addition, Merck is investigating several targets in the treatment of a variety of hematologic malignancies, including multiple myeloma, in early stage research. We recognize that patients with advanced multiple myeloma eventually relapse and that makes identification of new drugs a greater imperative. Merck is committed to helping improve the lives of cancer patients living with this devastating disease. The current trials we have underway will help us understand the potential of various drugs in myeloma treatment. We are grateful to all the patients who participate in these clinical trials worldwide, as our progress toward innovative new treatments would not be possible without their involvement.
Thank you, Dr. Rubin! I will give you my take on all of this–plus some very good “off the record” news about vorinostat–tomorrow.
Feel good and keep smiling! Pat