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Epizyme’s Cancer Drug Studies to Continue; Some Tumors Wiped Out

Epizyme Inc. said four groups of patients with persistent cases of a blood cancer responded well enough to its drug to keep the company’s studies going, and some patients taking the medication saw their tumors wiped out.

A statistical assessment of the four groups treated with Epizyme’s drug for non-Hodgkin lymphoma showed that responses were strong enough to continue, the company said Sunday in a statement. The trial is looking at the drug, called tazemetostat, in patients with different types of the disease who relapsed after taking other therapies. More data is needed to decide whether to continue the trial in a fifth patient group, the company said.

There will be about 73,000 new cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the U.S. this year, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and roughly 29 percent of patients die within five years of diagnosis. The test was done in patients who had already undergone and stopped responding to aggressive cancer therapy and, while the data are still early, the results have been similar to earlier-stage tests, said Peter Ho, Epizyme’s chief medical officer.

“This is a very advanced and heavily pre-treated population of cancer patients,” Ho said by phone. “What we’re finding is that the very favorable safety profile that was in phase one is being replicated in phase two.” 

Epizyme, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts has no approved therapies and tazemetostat is its most advanced experimental drug.

Among 47 patients whose disease data were available, four had their tumors eliminated and nine saw tumor shrinkage, according to the statement. One patient whose tumor shrank has since started seeing regrowth, according to slides that will be presented at the American Society of Hematology Meeting on Lymphoma Biology in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Among 82 patients for whom safety data were available, 2 percent stopped taking tazemetostat because of drug-related side effects. The most common severe side effects were low white blood cell counts and platelet deficiencies.

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