Background: Pegylated recombinant human arginase (PEG-BCT-100) is an arginine depleting drug. Preclinical studies showed that HCC is reliant on exogenous arginine for growth due to the under-expression of the arginine regenerating enzymes argininosuccinate synthetase (ASS) and ornithine transcarbamylase (OTC).
Methods: This is a single arm open-label Phase II trial to assess the potential clinical efficacy of PEG-BCT-100 in chemo naïve sorafenib-failure HCC patients. Pre-treatment tumour biopsy was mandated for ASS and OTC expression by immunohistochemistry (IHC). Weekly intravenous PEG-BCT-100 at 2.7 mg/kg was given. Primary endpoint was time to progression (TTP); secondary endpoints included radiological response as per RECIST1.1, progression free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS). Treatment outcomes were correlated with tumour immunohistochemical expressions of ASS and OTC.
Results: In total 27 patients were recruited. The median TTP and PFS were both 6 weeks (95% CI, 5.9-6.0 weeks). The disease control rate (DCR) was 21.7% (5 stable disease). The drug was well tolerated. Post hoc analysis showed that duration of arginine depletion correlated with OS. For patients with available IHC results, 10 patients with ASS-negative tumour had OS of 35 weeks (95% CI: 8.3-78.0 weeks) vs. 15.14 weeks (95% CI: 13.4-15.1 weeks) in 3 with ASS-positive tumour; expression of OTC did not correlate with treatment outcomes.
Conclusions: PEG-BCT-100 in chemo naïve post-sorafenib HCC is well tolerated with moderate DCR. ASS-negative confers OS advantage over ASS-positive HCC. ASS-negativity is a potential biomarker for OS in HCC and possibly for other ASS-negative arginine auxotrophic cancers.
Trial registration number: NCT01092091. Date of registration: March 23, 2010.
Keywords: Arginine deprivation; Biomarkers; Liver cancer; PEG-BCT-100; Second line.