Crizotinib: from discovery to accelerated development to front-line treatment
Non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is associated with a poor prognosis and low survival rates, providing a strong rationale for the development of new treatment options. The discovery of ALK gene rearrangements in a subset of NSCLC specimens and the identification and development of the first-in-class ALK inhibitor crizotinib provided a personalised treatment option for patients with advanced ALK-positive NSCLC. Crizotinib demonstrated rapid and durable responses in advanced ALK-positive NSCLC patients in phase I and II studies, leading to accelerated FDA approval. Subsequent evaluation in phase III studies showed that crizotinib improved progression-free survival compared with platinum-based doublet chemotherapy in previously untreated patients and compared with pemetrexed or docetaxel in previously treated patients. Crizotinib was shown to have an acceptable safety profile and also to improve quality of life and symptom scores. Overall, crizotinib has been shown to provide a valuable first- and second-line treatment option and is now the first-line standard of care for patients with advanced ALK-positive NSCLC.