European Commission approves Kite’s CAR T-cell therapy Yescarta to treat relapsed or refractory follicular lymphoma

The European Commission (EC) has approved Kite’s CAR T-cell therapy Yescarta (axicabtagene ciloleucel) for the treatment of adult patients with relapsed or refractory follicular lymphoma (FL) after three or more lines of systemic therapy. Yescarta has maintained orphan medicinal product designation in this indication.

“Patients with advanced relapsed or refractory follicular lymphoma have a high need for new treatment options,” said Christi Shaw, CEO, Kite. “This is the third approved indication for a Kite cell therapy in Europe, and we are pleased to enable more patients with different lymphomas greater access to this treatment innovation.”

Follicular lymphoma is a form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in which tumors grow slowly but can become more aggressive over time. FL is the second most common type of lymphoma globally and accounts for approximately 22% of all lymphomas diagnosed worldwide. In Europe, approximately 27,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.

“Follicular lymphoma that has relapsed multiple times is a difficult-to-treat disease with an especially poor prognosis as only 20% of patients are still alive at five years after their second relapse,” said Ibrahim Yakoub-Agha, MD, PhD, head of the Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapy Unit, Lille University Hospital.

“Ninety-one percent of patients in the ZUMA-5 study responded to axicabtagene ciloleucel after three or more prior lines of therapy, and more than half of these were still in response two years later. This sign of durable remission is critical for patients who need options that can deliver long-term benefit.”

“Follicular lymphoma is often misunderstood as easy to treat or non life-threatening, even when it has reached a significantly advanced stage,” said Nicola Mendelsohn, founder and chair of the Follicular Lymphoma Foundation (FLF). “For patients with later-line relapsed or refractory disease, it is often very aggressive. Axicabtagene ciloleucel represents an important advance for a patient population in Europe with limited treatment options.”

The approval is supported by data from the pivotal, single-arm Phase 2 ZUMA-5 international study in patients with relapsed or refractory FL who had received at least two prior lines of systemic therapy, including the combination of an anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody and an alkylating agent. Among patients who had received three or more lines of prior therapy (n=75), the overall response rate (ORR) was 91%, and the complete response (CR) rate was 77% at the 24-month analysis. The median duration of response (DoR) was 38.6 months, and the proportion of responders still in response at Month 24 was 56%.

Among all evaluable patients within ZUMA-5 (n=119), safety observations were consistent with the known safety profile for Yescarta. Grade ≥3 cytokine release syndrome (CRS) occurred in 6% of patients and neurologic events occurred 16% of patients. Most CRS cases (99%) of any grade resolved by the time of data cut-off and 60% of neurologic events were resolved within three weeks. The most significant and frequently occurring adverse events were CRS (77%), infections (59%) and encephalopathy (47%).

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