Purpose: This phase II study evaluated the synthetic DNA-based immunomodulator and Toll-like receptor 9 agonist MGN1703 as maintenance treatment in metastatic colorectal carcinoma (mCRC).
Methods: Fifty-nine patients with mCRC and disease control after standard first-line chemotherapy were randomised to MGN1703 60 mg (N = 43) or placebo (N = 16).
Results: The hazard ratio (HR) for the primary endpoint [progression-free survival (PFS) from the start of maintenance] was 0.56 (95 % CI 0.29-1.08; P = 0.07) and 0.55 (95 % CI 0.3-1.0; P = 0.04) by independent and investigator review, respectively. MGN1703 significantly improved PFS measured from the start of induction therapy versus placebo on independent (HR 0.49; 95 % CI 0.26-0.94; P = 0.03) and investigator review (HR 0.50; 95 % CI 0.31-1.02; P = 0.02). Overall survival (OS) data remain immature (HR 95 %; 95 % CI 0.3-1.5; P = 0.29) with 28/43 patients alive after a medium follow-up of >17 months. Retrospective subgroup analysis showed a significant effect of MGN1703 on PFS versus placebo in patients with greater than median tumour size reduction and normalised carcinoembryonic antigen concentrations following induction therapy, and in patients with elevated activated NKT cells ≥3.08 %. Adverse events were mild to moderate and limited to injection-site reactions or linked to general immune system activation.
Conclusions: MGN1703 maintenance treatment was well tolerated and appears to induce durable and prolonged PFS and disease control in a subgroup of patients with mCRC following induction therapy. Activated NKT cells may be a predictive biomarker for selecting patients likely to benefit more from MGN1703.