Trabectedin (ET743, Yondelis(®), manufactured by Baxter Oncology GmbH, Halle/Westfalen, Germany, for Janssen Products, LP, Horsham, PA), derived from the marine ascidian, Ecteinascidia turbinata, is a natural alkaloid with multiple complex mechanisms of action. On 23 October 2015, 15 years after the results of the first Phase 1 clinical trial using trabectedin for chemotherapy-resistant solid malignancies was reported, and 8 years after its approval in Europe, the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) finally approved trabectedin for the treatment of unresectable or metastatic liposarcoma or leiomyosarcoma that has failed a prior anthracycline-containing regimen. Approval was based on the results of a pivotal Phase 3 trial involving a 2:1 randomization of 518 patients (who were further stratified by soft tissue sarcoma subtype), in which a significant improvement in progression-free survival was reported in the trabectedin-treated group vs. the dacarbazine-treated group (p < 0.001). In this trial, the most common adverse reactions were nausea, fatigue, vomiting, constipation, anorexia, diarrhea, peripheral edema, dyspnea, and headache, while the most serious were neutropenic sepsis, rhabdomyolysis, cardiomyopathy, hepatotoxicity, and extravasation leading to tissue necrosis. The most common grade 3-4 adverse events were laboratory abnormalities of myelosuppression in both arms and transient transaminitis in the trabectedin arm. In a recent Phase 2 trial, trabectedin had a similar outcome as doxorubicin when given as a single agent in the first-line setting. Studies are also being conducted to expand the use of trabectedin not only as a first-line cancer drug, but also for a number of other clinical indications, for example, in the case of mesenchymal chondrosarcoma, for which trabectedin has been reported to be exceptionally active. The possibility of combining trabectedin with targeted therapies, immune checkpoint inhibitors or virotherapy would also be an interesting concept. In short, trabectedin is an old new drug with proven potential to impact the lives of patients with soft tissue sarcoma and other solid malignancies.
Funding: Sarcoma Oncology Center, Santa Monica, CA 90405.
Keywords: Alkylating agent; Chemotherapy; Clinical trials; DNA minor groove binder; ET-743; Oncology; Soft tissue sarcoma; Trabectedin.