February 24, 2017
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Mechanism Of Action

Ado-trastuzumab emtansine is a HER2-targeted antibody-drug conjugate. The antibody is the humanized anti-HER2 IgG1, trastuzumab. The small molecule cytotoxin, DM1, is a microtubule inhibitor. Upon binding to sub-domain IV of the HER2 receptor, ado-trastuzumab emtansine undergoes receptor-mediated internalization and subsequent lysosomal degradation, resulting in intracellular release of DM1-containing cytotoxic catabolites. Binding of DM1 to tubulin disrupts microtubule networks in the cell, which results in cell cycle arrest and apoptotic cell death. In addition, in vitro studies have shown that similar to trastuzumab, ado-trastuzumab emtansine inhibits HER2 receptor signaling, mediates antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity and inhibits shedding of the HER2 extracellular domain in human breast cancer cells that overexpress HER2.


The pharmacokinetics of KADCYLA was evaluated in a phase 1 study and in a population pharmacokinetic analysis for the ado-trastuzumab emtansine conjugate (ADC) using pooled data from 5 trials in patients with breast cancer. A linear two-compartment model with first-order elimination from the central compartment adequately describes the ADC concentration-time profile. In addition to ADC, the pharmacokinetics of total antibody (conjugated and unconjugated trastuzumab), DM1 were also determined. The pharmacokinetics of KADCYLA are summarized below.


Maximum concentrations (Cmax) of ADC and DM1 were observed close to the end of infusion. In Study 1, mean (SD) ADC and DM1 Cycle 1 Cmax following KADCYLA administration was 83.4 (16.5) μg/mL and 4.61 (1.61) ng/mL, respectively.

In vitro, the mean binding of DM1 to human plasma proteins was 93%. In vitro, DM1 was a substrate of P-glycoprotein (P-gp).

Based on population pharmacokinetic analysis, the central volume of distribution of ADC was 3.13 L.


In vitro studies indicate that DM1, the small molecule component of KADCYLA, undergoes metabolism by CYP3A4/5. DM1 did not inhibit or induce major CYP450 enzymes in vitro. In human plasma, ado-trastuzumab emtansine catabolites MCC-DM1, Lys-MCC-DM1, and DM1 were detected at low levels.


Based on population pharmacokinetic analysis, following intravenous infusion of KADCYLA, the clearance of the ADC was 0.68 L/day and the elimination half-life (t½) was approximately 4 days. No accumulation of KADCYLA was observed after repeated dosing of intravenous infusion every 3 weeks.

Based on population pharmacokinetic analysis (n=671), body weight, sum of longest diameter of target lesions by RECIST, HER2 extracellular domain (ECD) concentrations, AST, albumin, and baseline trastuzumab concentrations were identified as statistically significant covariates for adotrastuzumab emtansine clearance. However, the magnitude of effect of these covariates on adotrastuzumab emtansine exposure suggests that, with the exception of body weight, these covariates are unlikely to have a clinically meaningful effect on KADCYLA exposure. Therefore, the body weight based dose of 3.6 mg/kg every 3 weeks without correction for other covariates is considered appropriate.

Effect Of Renal Impairment

Based on population pharmacokinetic analysis in 668 patients, including moderate (CLcr 30 -59 mL/min, n=53) and mild (CLcr 60 -89 mL/min, n=254) renal impairment, indicate that pharmacokinetics of the ADC is not affected by mild to moderate renal impairment as compared to normal renal function (CLcr ≥ 90 mL/min, n=361). Data from only one patient with severe renal impairment (CLcr < 30 mL/min) is available [see Use in Specific Populations].

Effect Of Hepatic Impairment

The liver is a primary organ for eliminating DM1 and DM1-containing catabolites. The pharmacokinetics of trastuzumab emtasine and DM1-containing catabolites were evaluated after the administration of 3.6 mg/kg of KADCYLA to metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer patients with normal hepatic function (n=10), mild (Child-Pugh A; n=10) and moderate (Child-Pugh B; n=8) hepatic impairment.

  • Plasma concentrations of DM1 and DM1-containing catabolites (Lys-MCC-DM1 and MCC-DM1) were low and comparable between patients with and without hepatic impairment.
  • Systemic exposures (AUC) of trastuzumab emtansine at Cycle 1 in patients with mild and moderate hepatic impairment were approximately 38% and 67% lower than that of patients with normal hepatic function, respectively. Trastuzumab emtansine exposure (AUC) at Cycle 3 after repeated dosing in patients with mild or moderate hepatic dysfunction was within the range observed in patients with normal hepatic function.

KADCYLA has not been studied in patients with severe hepatic impairment (Child-Pugh class C).

Effects Of Age and Race

Based on population pharmacokinetic analysis, age ( < 65 (n=577); 65 -75 (n=78); > 75 (n=16)) and race (Asian (n=73); non-Asian (n=598)) do not have a clinically meaningful effect on the pharmacokinetics of ado-trastuzumab emtansine.

Cardiac Electrophysiology

The effect of multiple doses of KADCYLA (3.6 mg/kg every 3 weeks) on the QTc interval was evaluated in an open label, single arm study in 51 patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer. No large changes in the mean QT interval (i.e., > 20 ms) were detected in the study.

Animal Toxicology And/Or Pharmacology

In monkeys, treatment with doses of ado-trastuzumab emtansine up to 30 mg/kg (about 7 times the clinical exposure based on AUC) caused dose dependent axonal degeneration in the sciatic nerve with hypertrophy or hyperplasia of the Schwann cells, and axonal degeneration of the dorsal funiculus in the spinal cord. Based on the mechanism of action of the cytotoxic component DM1, there is clinical potential for neurotoxicity [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].

Clinical Studies

Metastatic Breast Cancer

The efficacy of KADCYLA was evaluated in a randomized, multicenter, open-label trial of 991 patients with HER2-positive, unresectable locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer. Prior taxane and trastuzumab-based therapy was required before trial enrollment. Patients with only prior adjuvant therapy were required to have disease recurrence during or within six months of completing adjuvant therapy. Breast tumor samples were required to show HER2 overexpression defined as 3+ IHC or FISH amplification ratio ≥ 2.0 determined at a central laboratory. Patients were randomly allocated (1:1) to receive lapatinib plus capecitabine or KADCYLA. Randomization was stratified by world region (United States, Western Europe, other), number of prior chemotherapy regimens for unresectable locally advanced or metastatic disease (0–1, > 1) and visceral versus non-visceral disease as determined by the investigators.

KADCYLA was given intravenously at 3.6 mg/kg on Day 1 of a 21-day cycle. Lapatinib was administered at 1250 mg/day orally once per day of a 21-day cycle and capecitabine was administered at 1000 mg/m² orally twice daily on Days 1-14 of a 21-day cycle. Patients were treated with KADCYLA or lapatinib plus capecitabine until progression of disease, withdrawal of consent, or unacceptable toxicity. At the time of the primary analysis, median time on study drug was 5.7 months (range: 0-28.4) for KADCYLA, 4.9 months (range: 0-30.8) for lapatinib, and 4.8 months (range: 0-30.4) for capecitabine.

The co-primary efficacy endpoints of the study were progression-free survival (PFS) based on tumor response assessments by an independent review committee (IRC), and overall survival (OS). PFS was defined as the time from the date of randomization to the date of disease progression or death from any cause (whichever occurred earlier). Overall survival was defined as the time from the date of randomization to the date of death from any cause. Additional endpoints included PFS (based on investigator tumor response assessments), objective response rate (ORR), duration of response and time to symptom progression.

Patient demographics and baseline tumor characteristics were balanced between treatment arms. All patients had metastatic disease at study entry. The median age was approximately 53 years (range 24-84 years), 74% were White, 18% were Asian and 5% were Black. All but 5 patients were women. Twenty-seven percent of patients were enrolled in United States, 32% in Europe and 16% in Asia. Tumor prognostic characteristics including hormone receptor status (positive: 55%, negative: 43%), presence of visceral disease (68%) and non-visceral disease only (33%) and the number of metastatic sites ( < 3: 61%, ≥ 3: 37%) were similar in the study arms.

The majority of patients (88%) had received prior systemic treatment in the metastatic setting. Twelve percent of patients had prior treatment only in the neoadjuvant or adjuvant setting and had disease relapse within 6 months of treatment. All but one patient received trastuzumab prior to study entry; approximately 85% of patients received prior trastuzumab in the metastatic setting. Over 99% percent of patients had received a taxane, and 61% of patients had received an anthracycline prior to study entry. Overall, patients received a median of 3 systemic agents in the metastatic setting. Among patients with hormone receptor-positive tumors, 44.4% received prior adjuvant hormonal therapy and 44.8% received hormonal therapy for locally advanced/metastatic disease.

The randomized trial demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in IRC-assessed PFS in the KADCYLA-treated group compared with the lapatinib plus capecitabine-treated group [hazard ratio (HR) = 0.65, 95% CI: 0.55, 0.77, p < 0.0001], and an increase in median PFS of 3.2 months (median PFS of 9.6 months in the KADCYLA-treated group vs. 6.4 months in the lapatinib plus capecitabine group). See Table 8 and Figure 1. The results for investigator-assessed PFS were similar to those observed for IRC-assessed PFS.

At the time of PFS analysis, 223 patients had died. More deaths occurred in the lapatinib plus capecitabine arm (26%) compared with the KADCYLA arm (19%), however the results of this interim OS analysis did not meet the pre-specified stopping boundary for statistical significance. At the time of the second interim OS analysis, 331 events had occurred. The co-primary endpoint of OS was met; OS was significantly improved in patients receiving KADCYLA (HR = 0.68, 95% CI: 0.55, 0.85, p = 0.0006). This result crossed the pre-specified efficacy stopping boundary (HR = 0.73 or p = 0.0037). The median duration of survival was 30.9 months in the KADCYLA arm vs. 25.1 months in the lapatinib plus capecitabine arm. See Table 8 and Figure 2.

A treatment benefit with KADCYLA in terms of PFS and OS was observed in patient subgroups based on stratification factors, key baseline demographic and disease characteristics, and prior treatments. In the subgroup of patients with hormone receptor-negative disease (n=426), the hazard ratios for PFS and OS were 0.56 (95% CI: 0.44, 0.72) and 0.75 (95% CI: 0.54, 1.03), respectively. In the subgroup of patients with hormone receptor-positive disease (n=545), the hazard ratios for PFS and OS were 0.72 (95% CI: 0.58, 0.91) and 0.62 (95% CI: 0.46, 0.85), respectively. In the subgroup of patients with non-measurable disease (n=205), based on IRC assessments, the hazard ratios for PFS and OS were 0.91 (95% CI: 0.59, 1.42) and 0.96 (95% CI: 0.54, 1.68), respectively; in patients with measurable disease the hazard ratios were 0.62 (95% CI: 0.52, 0.75) and 0.65 (95% CI: 0.51, 0.82), respectively. The PFS and OS hazard ratios in patients who were younger than 65 years old (n=853) were 0.62 (95% CI: 0.52, 0.74) and 0.66 (95% CI: 0.52, 0.83), respectively. In patients ≥ 65 years old (n=138), the hazard ratios for PFS and OS were 1.06 (95% CI: 0.68, 1.66) and 1.05 (95% CI: 0.58, 1.91), respectively.

Table 8 : Summary of Efficacy from Study 1

N= 495
Lapatinib + Capecitabine
N= 496
Progression-Free Survival(independent review)
  Number (%) of patients with event 265 (53.5%) 304 (61.3%)
  Median duration of PFS (months) 9.6 6.4
  Hazard Ratio (stratified*) 0.650
  95% CI for Hazard Ratio (0.549, 0.771) < 0.0001
  p-value (Log-Rank test, stratified*)
Overall Survival **
  Number (%) of patients who died 149 (30.1%) 182 (36.7%)
  Median duration of survival (months) 30.9 25.1
  Hazard Ratio (stratified*) 0.682
  95% CI for Hazard Ratio (0.548, 0.849)
  p-value (Log-Rank test*) 0.0006
Objective Response Rate(independent review)
  Patients with measurable disease 397 389
  Number of patients with OR (%) 173 (43.6%) 120 (30.8%)
  Difference (95% CI) 12.7% (6.0, 19.4)
Duration of Objective Response(months)
  Number of patients with OR 173 120
  Median duration (95% CI) 12.6 (8.4, 20.8) 6.5 (5.5, 7.2)
PFS: progression-free survival; OR: objective response
* Stratified by world region (United States, Western Europe, other), number of prior chemotherapeutic regimens for locally advanced or metastatic disease (0-1 vs. > 1), and visceral vs. non-visceral disease.
** The second interim analysis for OS was conducted when 331 events were observed and the results are presented in this table.

Figure 1 :Kaplan-Meier Curve of IRC-Assessed Progression-Free Survival for Study 1

Kaplan-Meier Curve of IRC-Assessed
Progression-Free Survival for Study 1 - Illustration

Figure 2 : Kaplan-Meier Curve of Overall Survival for Study 1

Kaplan-Meier Curve of Overall Survival for Study 1 - Illustration

Last reviewed on RxList: 8/4/2016
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.

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