Background: The Notch pathway is frequently activated in cancer. Pathway inhibition by γ-secretase inhibitors has been shown to be effective in pre-clinical models of pancreatic cancer, in combination with gemcitabine.
Methods: A multi-centre, non-randomised Bayesian adaptive design study of MK-0752, administered per os weekly, in combination with gemcitabine administered intravenously on days 1, 8 and 15 (28 day cycle) at 800 or 1000 mg m-2, was performed to determine the safety of combination treatment and the recommended phase 2 dose (RP2D). Secondary and tertiary objectives included tumour response, plasma and tumour MK-0752 concentration, and inhibition of the Notch pathway in hair follicles and tumour.
Results: Overall, 44 eligible patients (performance status 0 or 1 with adequate organ function) received gemcitabine and MK-0752 as first or second line treatment for pancreatic cancer. RP2Ds of MK-0752 and gemcitabine as single agents could be combined safely. The Bayesian algorithm allowed further dose escalation, but pharmacokinetic analysis showed no increase in MK-0752 AUC (area under the curve) beyond 1800 mg once weekly. Tumour response evaluation was available in 19 patients; 13 achieved stable disease and 1 patient achieved a confirmed partial response.
Conclusions: Gemcitabine and a γ-secretase inhibitor (MK-0752) can be combined at their full, single-agent RP2Ds.