Purpose:

Concurrent inhibition of mTOR and PI3K led to improved efficacy in preclinical models and provided the rationale for this phase I study of everolimus and buparlisib (BKM120) in patients with advanced solid tumor.

Patients and Methods:

We used the Bayesian Escalation with Overdose Control design to test escalating doses of everolimus (5 or 10 mg) and buparlisib (20, 40, 60, 80, and 100 mg) in eligible patients. Pharmacokinetic assessment was conducted using blood samples collected on cycle 1, days 8 and 15. Pharmacodynamic impact on mTOR/PI3K pathway modulation evaluated in paired skin biopsies collected at baseline and end of cycle 1.

Results:

We enrolled 43 patients, median age of 63 (range, 39–78) years; 25 (58.1%) females, 35 (81.4%) Caucasians, and 8 (18.6%) Blacks. The most frequent toxicities were hyperglycemia, diarrhea, nausea, fatigue, and aspartate aminotransferase elevation. Dose-limiting toxicities observed in 7 patients were fatigue (3), hyperglycemia (2), mucositis (1), acute kidney injury (1), and urinary tract infection (1). The recommended phase II dose (RP2D) for the combination was established as everolimus (5 mg) and buparlisib (60 mg). The best response in 27 evaluable patients was progressive disease and stable disease in 3 (11%) and 24 (89%), respectively. The median progression-free survival and overall survival were 2.7 (1.8–4.2) and 9 (6.4–13.2) months. Steady-state pharmacokinetic analysis showed dose-normalized maximum concentrations and AUC values for everolimus and buparlisib in combination to be comparable with single-agent pharmacokinetic.

Conclusions:

The combination of everolimus and buparlisib is safe and well-tolerated at the RP2D of 5 and 60 mg on a continuous daily schedule.

Translational Relevance

Our group and others previously reported that paradoxical AKT activation is a potential mechanism of resistance to mTOR inhibitors. The preclinical rationale for the combination is quite compelling and supported a combined vertical blockade of the mTOR/PI3K/AKT pathway as a strategy to enhance the efficacy of mTOR inhibitors. This study tested the systematic combination of everolimus and buparlisib in advanced solid tumors. We also carried out detailed pharmacokinetic analysis for possible drug–drug interaction between the two agents. We established the safety of this combination strategy. Inhibitors of mTOR signaling pathway are already established as treatment options in breast, kidney, and pancreatic tumors. Recent approval of a selective PI3K inhibitor for breast cancer further highlights the clinical relevance of this combination as a strategy to improve patient outcome.

The PI3K/AKT/mTOR inhibitor signaling cascade is requisite for the physiologic control of cellular homeostasis and a central player in cell growth, nutrient metabolism, apoptosis, and ribogenesis (1, 2). This axis is the second most frequently deregulated pathway after TP53 aberration in human cancers and has been implicated in solid malignancies arising in the lung, breast, colon, liver, endometrium, and sarcomas (3–5). On the basis of preclinical and clinical correlative evidence, small-molecule inhibitors directed against mTOR have been evaluated either as single agent or in combination with targeted and cytotoxic agents for the treatment of solid tumors. Although promising clinical benefit mostly in the form of disease stability was recorded, objective responses were limited and nondurable (6–8). Furthermore, the presence of a feedback loop leading to increased AKT activation has been described as a bypass mechanism that attenuates the efficacy of mTOR inhibitors in preclinical models (9, 10).

The mTOR pathway is activated by proximal signals upon receptor tyrosine kinase activation through both the PI3Kinase and Ras pathways resulting in the coupling of growth factor signaling with cellular metabolism (11). It also serves as a central node in the signal transduction pathways of a number of other tyrosine kinases involved in oncogenesis including EGFR and the insulin-like growth factor receptor-1. Because the PI3kinase/AKT/mTOR pathway is integral to physiologic and oncogenic cellular processes (12), vertical and horizontal multi-level inhibition of this axis is expected and did result in sustained signaling abrogation and concomitant increased efficacy in vitro and in vivo (9, 10, 13). The combined inhibition of two key members of this pathway, PI3Kinase and mTOR has been exhaustively tested in preclinical model and showed promising signal as a novel anticancer strategy leading to the clinical development of agents with dual PI3Kinase and mTOR inhibitor activity (14–16). However, such agents may have increased toxicity due to the physiologic role of PI3Kinase in diverse human tissues and the inability to differentially calibrate the activity against PI3Kinase versus mTOR. Buparlisib (BKM120) is a selective class I PI3Kinase inhibitor with potent activity (17). It is a good candidate for combined vertical inhibition of mTOR/AKT/PI3K signaling cascade as a way to enhance the already established clinical activity of mTOR inhibitors. We previously showed that the combination of buparlisib and everolimus was synergistic in preclinical models. We therefore conducted this study to establish the safety of the combination of buparlisib and everolimus in patients with advanced solid malignancies. We also conducted detailed pharmacokinetic evaluation to identify possible drug–drug interaction (DDI) along with pharmacodynamic endpoint assessment in surrogate tissues to guide the future development of this strategy.

This trial was designed to demonstrate the safety and tolerability of the combination of everolimus and buparlisib, determine the MTD, and establish the recommended phase II dose (RP2D) of the combination in patients with advanced solid tumors. The study was conducted in accordance with the U.S. Common Rule ethical principles and with the approval and oversight of the Emory University Institutional Review Board (Atlanta, GA). All study participants provided a written informed consent prior to any research-related procedures and the study was registered at www.clinicaltrials.gov (NCT01470209).

Eligibility

Participants with histologic confirmation of a solid malignancy who have exhausted standard treatment options were eligible for the study if ≥18 years of age at the time of enrollment, and with at least one measurable lesion in accord with the RECIST 1.1 criteria. Additional eligibility criteria included Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status of 0–2; adequate organ function indicated by: absolute neutrophil count ≥1,500 cell/mm3, hemoglobin ≥9 g/dL, platelets ≥100,000 cells/mm3; serum creatinine ≤1.5 × upper limit of normal (ULN); 24-hour clearance ≥50 mL/minute or calculated GFR of 60 cc/mL using the formula of Cockcroft and Gault; aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase <2.5 × ULN or <5 × ULN in the presence of hepatic metastases and fasting plasma glucose ≤120 mg/dL (6.7 mmol/L). Salient exclusion criteria included inability to swallow pills, prior treatment with a P13K inhibitor or discontinuation of prior everolimus treatment due to toxicity, and known psychiatric diagnosis or suspected diagnosis of mood disorder based on validated GAD-7 and PHQ-9 screening questionnaires. Detailed inclusion and exclusion requirements are provided in the study protocol available online.

Study design and treatment

This study was a phase I, open-label safety design to study the combination of buparlisib and everolimus. Patients meeting the required eligibility criteria were enrolled in cohorts of 3 patients using a Bayesian adaptive design, Escalation with Overdose Control. The trial consisted of two stages starting with the dose level 1 of buparlisib at 20 mg and everolimus at 5 mg. A target probability of dose-limiting toxicity (DLT) θ set at 0.33 required a maximum of 9 patients to be treated. If dose level 1 is established to be lower than the MTD, the trial would proceed to the second stage to estimate the MTD from five specified dose levels in stage 2. The maximum sample size for the second stage is 32. The highest tolerated dose at the end of the dose escalation will be the RP2D for the expansion cohort. An expansion cohort of 15 patients will be treated at the RP2D.

DLT

To be evaluable, patients were required to have received 75% or more of the planned doses of the investigational agents in the absence of a DLT during the DLT window in cycle 1. The study defined DLT as: grade 4 hematologic toxicity (excluding anemia) lasting more than 7 days or grade 4 anemia of any duration; grade 3 anemia lasting more than 7 days or requiring blood transfusion; grade ≥3 febrile neutropenia of any duration; grade ≥3 nausea and or vomiting lasting more than 72 hours in spite of standard supportive therapy; grade ≥3 nonhematologic toxicity (excluding alopecia); and grade ≥3 electrolyte abnormality of significant clinical consequence and directly attributed to the receipt of the investigational agents and inability to re-treat patient within 14 days of scheduled treatment because of treatment-related toxicity. An expected toxicity of everolimus in terms of grade and frequency as per package inserts was not considered a DLT.

Correlatives

Pharmacokinetics

Because of a potential risk for significant DDI between everolimus, a very sensitive 3A4 substrate and buparlisib, a 3A4 inhibitor, we assessed pharmacokinetic characteristics of both drugs in peripheral blood samples collected on cycle 1, day 8 and 15 when buparlisib is expected to be at steady state concentration. Samples (plasma for buparlisib and whole blood for everolimus) were collected at 0 minute, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours, 4 hours, 6 hours, 8 hours, 24 hours, and 7 days after a witnessed ingestion of the day 8 doses of buparlisib and everolimus. Whole-blood samples for everolimus pharmacokinetics were collected in heparinized vacutainer tubes while buparlisib pharmacokinetics samples were in K3EDTA tubes. As previously described, plasma levels of buparlisib were batched analyzed using a validated LC/MS-MS assay with a lower limit of quantification of 1 ng/mL. Pharmacokinetic parameters of the everolimus and buparlisib were determined using a noncompartmental method (WinNonlin; Pharsight; ref. 18).

Pharmacodynamics

Phosphorylated biomarkers of mTOR/PI3K pathway signaling (pS6, peIF4E, p-4EBP1, and pAKT) were evaluated by IHC as previously described using paired skin biopsies collected at baseline and end of cycle 1 from patients enrolled in the dose-escalation and dose-expansion phases of the study. Details of the IHC condition, antibody clones, and protein expression analysis were described previously (19).

Efficacy

Eligible patients were required to have measurable disease by RECIST 1.1 criteria determined by cross-sectional anatomic imaging. Imaging scans were obtained at baseline within 4 weeks of starting treatment and every 8 weeks at the end of every even cycle thereafter until progression or withdrawal from study. Efficacy was graded as complete response, partial response, stable disease, or progressive disease (PD). Progression-free survival (PFS) was measured from treatment initiation to time of disease progression or death, while overall survival (OS) was measured from the date of starting treatment until date of death or censoring.

Statistical analysis

Statistical considerations for the dose escalation are detailed in the Materials and Methods section above and will be available in the protocol. Descriptive statistics were employed to summarize baseline subject characteristics, tumor types, and adverse event experience. Subjects who received any dose of study drugs were eligible for inclusion in the safety analysis. Efficacy was assessed in patients who completed at least two cycles of treatment and with two imaging scans available for comparisons. Statistical analysis was conducted using SAS Version 9.4. Descriptive statistics for each variable were reported. For numeric covariates, the mean and SD were calculated and presented. Frequency and its percentage were shown for category variables. Kaplan–Meier plot also were presented on OS and PFS.

Patient and treatment

We enrolled a total of 43 eligible patients with median age of 63 years (range, 39–78 years). There were 25 (58.1%) females and majority of the enrolled patients [35 (81.4%)] were Caucasians. Six different combinations of buparlisib and everolimus were evaluated in 28 evaluable patients: dose level 1: 5 and 20 mg; level 2: 10 and 20 mg; level 3: 5 mg and 40 mg; level 4: 5 and 60 mg; level 5: 10 and 60 mg; and level 6: 5 plus 80 mg. Continuous daily dosing of buparlisib and everolimus at a dose of 60 and 5 mg once daily, respectively, was the highest tolerable dose. This dose was declared the RP2D and was further evaluated in 7 additional DLT evaluable patients enrolled into an expansion cohort. The details of patient demographics, histologic types, dose cohort, and DLT experience are presented in Table 1. All patients have discontinued protocol defined treatment as of the time of this publication. Progression of disease was the most common reason for discontinuation of treatment in 25 (58.1%) patients followed by adverse events in 11 (25.6%) patients, withdrawal of consent in 5 (11.6%) patients, and death in 2 (4.7%) patients.

Table 1.

Patient and tumor characteristics.

VariableLevelN = 43
Gender, n (%) Male 18 (41.9) 
 Female 25 (58.1) 
Race, n (%) White 35 (81.4) 
 African American 8 (18.6) 
Ethnicity, n (%) Hispanic or Latino 2 (4.8) 
 Non-Hispanic 40 (95.2) 
 Missing 
Age (range), years Mean 61.02 
 Median 63 (39–78) 
Primary tumor site, N (%)   
 Lung 16 (37.2) 
 Colon/rectal 7 (16.3) 
 Salivary 5 (11.6) 
 Breast 3 (7.0) 
 Soft tissue sarcoma 3 (7.0) 
 Thymus 2 (4.7) 
 Bladder 2 (4.7) 
 Thyroid 2 (4.7) 
 Ovarian 2 (4.7) 
 Pancreatic NET 1 (2.3) 
Number of treatment cycles (range) Mean 
 Median 5 (1–23) 
VariableLevelN = 43
Gender, n (%) Male 18 (41.9) 
 Female 25 (58.1) 
Race, n (%) White 35 (81.4) 
 African American 8 (18.6) 
Ethnicity, n (%) Hispanic or Latino 2 (4.8) 
 Non-Hispanic 40 (95.2) 
 Missing 
Age (range), years Mean 61.02 
 Median 63 (39–78) 
Primary tumor site, N (%)   
 Lung 16 (37.2) 
 Colon/rectal 7 (16.3) 
 Salivary 5 (11.6) 
 Breast 3 (7.0) 
 Soft tissue sarcoma 3 (7.0) 
 Thymus 2 (4.7) 
 Bladder 2 (4.7) 
 Thyroid 2 (4.7) 
 Ovarian 2 (4.7) 
 Pancreatic NET 1 (2.3) 
Number of treatment cycles (range) Mean 
 Median 5 (1–23) 

Safety, toxicity, and DLTs

The most commonly observed adverse event occurring in >20% of subjects included thrombocytopenia, anorexia, mucositis, nausea/vomiting, fatigue, elevated transaminases (ALT/AST), hyperglycemia, hypokalemia, and musculoskeletal pain (Table 2). There were no treatment-related deaths, but 35 (81.4%) of all enrolled patients had died at the time of this analysis. Seven of the 28 evaluable patients treated in the dose-escalation phase experienced a DLT. DLT defining toxicities included grade 3 urinary tract infection, grade 3 fatigue, grade 3 elevated creatinine, grade 3 hyperglycemia, and grade 3 parainfluenza respiratory infection. Details of DLT and the dose level where they were encountered are presented in Supplementary Table S1. The maximum administered combination doses of 10 mg plus 60 mg and 5 mg plus 80 mg everolimus plus buparlisib, respectively, were not tolerable. On the basis of tolerability within the DLT window and long-term tolerability beyond the 4-week window, the combination of everolimus (5 mg daily) along with buparlisib (60 mg daily) was the highest tolerated dose and was declared the RP2D.

Table 2.

Treatment emergent adverse events by grade and frequency regardless of attribution.

Grade
CategoryAdverse event12345
Blood and lymphatic system Anemia 14% 14% 2% 0% 0% 
 Leukopenia 2% 2% 0% 0% 0% 
 Neutropenia 0% 5% 5% 2% 0% 
 Thrombocytopenia 21% 5% 5% 0% 0% 
Eye disorder Dry eyes 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
 Increased sensitivity to light 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
Gastrointestinal disorder Anorexia 21% 5% 0% 0% 0% 
 Constipation 12% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
 Diarrhea 19% 7% 0% 0% 0% 
 Dyspepsia 2% 2% 0% 0% 0% 
 Mucositis oral 10 23% 2% 5% 0% 0% 
 Nausea and vomiting 13 30% 5% 2% 0% 0% 
General disorders Dehydration 2% 2% 2% 0% 0% 
 Edema 12% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
 Fatigue 14 33% 12 28% 12% 0% 0% 
 Fever 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
 Tongue swelling 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
 Weight loss 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
Infections and infestations Cellulitis 0% 2% 0% 0% 0% 
 Cold sore 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
 Ear infection 0% 2% 0% 0% 0% 
 Pneumonia 0% 0% 7% 0% 2% 
 Sepsis 0% 0% 0% 2% 2% 
 Upper respiratory infection 5% 9% 0% 0% 0% 
 Urinary tract infection 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
Investigations Elevated amylase 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
 Elevated AST/ALT 15 35% 2% 0% 0% 0% 
 Elevated BUN 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
 Elevated creatinine 14% 5% 2% 0% 0% 
 Hyperbilirubinemia 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
Metabolism and nutrition disorders Hypercholesterolemia 19% 5% 0% 0% 0% 
 Hyperglycemia 19 44% 16% 5% 0% 0% 
 Hypertriglyceridemia 16% 5% 0% 0% 0% 
 Hyperuricemia 0% 0% 0% 2% 0% 
 Hypoalbuminemia 2% 2% 0% 0% 0% 
 Hypocalcemia 2% 2% 0% 0% 0% 
 Hypokalemia 14% 11 26% 9% 0% 0% 
 Hypomagnesemia 0% 2% 0% 0% 0% 
 Hyponatremia 2% 0% 2% 0% 0% 
 Hypophosphatemia 0% 5% 2% 0% 0% 
Musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorder Pain, musculoskeletal 21% 5% 2% 0% 0% 
Nervous system disorders Anxiety 0% 2% 0% 0% 0% 
 Confusion 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
 Dizziness 9% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
 Headache 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
 Insomnia 5% 5% 0% 0% 0% 
 Memory impairment 5% 2% 2% 0% 0% 
 Neuropathy 9% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
Renal and urinary disorders Dysuria 5% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
 Erectile dysfunction 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
 Nocturia 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
Respiratory, thoracic, and mediastinal disorders Cough 9% 9% 0% 0% 0% 
 Dyspnea 12% 2% 0% 2% 0% 
 Nasal congestion 2% 0% 2% 0% 0% 
 Pneumonitis 0% 0% 2% 0% 0% 
 Respiratory failure 0% 0% 0% 0% 2% 
Skin and subcutaneous tissue Pruritus 5% 5% 0% 0% 0% 
 Rash 14% 2% 2% 0% 0% 
Vascular disorders Hypertension 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
 Hypotension 0% 2% 0% 0% 0% 
 Pulmonary embolism 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
 Rectal/vaginal bleeding 0% 0% 2% 0% 0% 
Grade
CategoryAdverse event12345
Blood and lymphatic system Anemia 14% 14% 2% 0% 0% 
 Leukopenia 2% 2% 0% 0% 0% 
 Neutropenia 0% 5% 5% 2% 0% 
 Thrombocytopenia 21% 5% 5% 0% 0% 
Eye disorder Dry eyes 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
 Increased sensitivity to light 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
Gastrointestinal disorder Anorexia 21% 5% 0% 0% 0% 
 Constipation 12% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
 Diarrhea 19% 7% 0% 0% 0% 
 Dyspepsia 2% 2% 0% 0% 0% 
 Mucositis oral 10 23% 2% 5% 0% 0% 
 Nausea and vomiting 13 30% 5% 2% 0% 0% 
General disorders Dehydration 2% 2% 2% 0% 0% 
 Edema 12% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
 Fatigue 14 33% 12 28% 12% 0% 0% 
 Fever 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
 Tongue swelling 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
 Weight loss 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
Infections and infestations Cellulitis 0% 2% 0% 0% 0% 
 Cold sore 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
 Ear infection 0% 2% 0% 0% 0% 
 Pneumonia 0% 0% 7% 0% 2% 
 Sepsis 0% 0% 0% 2% 2% 
 Upper respiratory infection 5% 9% 0% 0% 0% 
 Urinary tract infection 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
Investigations Elevated amylase 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
 Elevated AST/ALT 15 35% 2% 0% 0% 0% 
 Elevated BUN 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
 Elevated creatinine 14% 5% 2% 0% 0% 
 Hyperbilirubinemia 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
Metabolism and nutrition disorders Hypercholesterolemia 19% 5% 0% 0% 0% 
 Hyperglycemia 19 44% 16% 5% 0% 0% 
 Hypertriglyceridemia 16% 5% 0% 0% 0% 
 Hyperuricemia 0% 0% 0% 2% 0% 
 Hypoalbuminemia 2% 2% 0% 0% 0% 
 Hypocalcemia 2% 2% 0% 0% 0% 
 Hypokalemia 14% 11 26% 9% 0% 0% 
 Hypomagnesemia 0% 2% 0% 0% 0% 
 Hyponatremia 2% 0% 2% 0% 0% 
 Hypophosphatemia 0% 5% 2% 0% 0% 
Musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorder Pain, musculoskeletal 21% 5% 2% 0% 0% 
Nervous system disorders Anxiety 0% 2% 0% 0% 0% 
 Confusion 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
 Dizziness 9% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
 Headache 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
 Insomnia 5% 5% 0% 0% 0% 
 Memory impairment 5% 2% 2% 0% 0% 
 Neuropathy 9% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
Renal and urinary disorders Dysuria 5% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
 Erectile dysfunction 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
 Nocturia 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
Respiratory, thoracic, and mediastinal disorders Cough 9% 9% 0% 0% 0% 
 Dyspnea 12% 2% 0% 2% 0% 
 Nasal congestion 2% 0% 2% 0% 0% 
 Pneumonitis 0% 0% 2% 0% 0% 
 Respiratory failure 0% 0% 0% 0% 2% 
Skin and subcutaneous tissue Pruritus 5% 5% 0% 0% 0% 
 Rash 14% 2% 2% 0% 0% 
Vascular disorders Hypertension 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
 Hypotension 0% 2% 0% 0% 0% 
 Pulmonary embolism 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 
 Rectal/vaginal bleeding 0% 0% 2% 0% 0% 

Efficacy

There were 27 efficacy evaluable patients by RECIST 1.1 criteria. None of the evaluable patients showed objective tumor response. The majority [20 (81%)] of patients achieved stable disease as best response, while PD was recorded in 7 (11%) patients (Fig. 1). The median PFS was 2.7 (range, 1.8–4.2) months, while the median OS was 9 (range, 6.4–13.2) months (Fig. 2). Signal of efficacy with prolonged stabilization of disease was noted in several patients including 2 patients with non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). One had tumor harboring genetic alterations in NF1 (I679fs*21); CDKN2A (M1_A19del); SMAD4 (M242*); and TP53 (M237I, G334V) mutation. The other patient previously treated with PD-1–targeted checkpoint inhibitor had mutation in STK11 (G188fs*99) and TP53 (V157F) among other alterations. In addition, a patient with advanced thymic carcinoma derived meaningful benefit with prolonged stabilization of disease lasting approximately 18 months.

Figure 1.

There were 27 efficacy evaluable patients by RECIST 1.1 criteria. None of the evaluable patients showed objective tumor response. The majority [20 (81%)] of patients achieved stable disease as best response, while PD was recorded in 7 (11%) patients. Top, the waterfall plot of the best change in sum of tumor diameters for each evaluable patient. Bottom, spider plot of change in sum of tumor diameter over time for each evaluable patient; *, a patient with STK11 alteration; **, a patient with NF1 gene frameshift mutation.

Figure 1.

There were 27 efficacy evaluable patients by RECIST 1.1 criteria. None of the evaluable patients showed objective tumor response. The majority [20 (81%)] of patients achieved stable disease as best response, while PD was recorded in 7 (11%) patients. Top, the waterfall plot of the best change in sum of tumor diameters for each evaluable patient. Bottom, spider plot of change in sum of tumor diameter over time for each evaluable patient; *, a patient with STK11 alteration; **, a patient with NF1 gene frameshift mutation.

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Figure 2.

A, Kaplan–Meier plot of PFS showing a median PFS of 2.7 (1.8–4.2) months while the median OS was 9 (6.4–13.2) months. B, Kaplan–Meier plot of OS showing a median OS of 9 (6.4–13.2) months.

Figure 2.

A, Kaplan–Meier plot of PFS showing a median PFS of 2.7 (1.8–4.2) months while the median OS was 9 (6.4–13.2) months. B, Kaplan–Meier plot of OS showing a median OS of 9 (6.4–13.2) months.

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Pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic assessments

Overall, there was greater interpatient variability in buparlisib pharmacokinetic but there was no evidence of DDI between buparlisib and everolimus (Fig. 3A; Table 3). Paired skin biopsy collected at baseline and end of cycle 1 showed evidence of target engagement with expected modulation of biomarkers of the mTOR/PI3K signaling molecules. There was a marked reduction in pS6 and p4EBP1 protein expression between baseline and posttreatment skin biopsy samples (Fig. 3B).

Figure 3.

A, Overall there was greater interpatient variability in buparlisib pharmacokinetics but there was no evidence of drug–drug interaction between buparlisib and everolimus. B, Representative samples of paired skin biopsy collected at baseline and end of cycle 1 showed evidence of target engagement with expected modulation of biomarkers of the mTOR/PI3K signaling molecules. There was a marked reduction in pS6 and p4EBP1 protein expression between baseline and post-treatment skin biopsy samples. H&E, hematoxylin and eosin.

Figure 3.

A, Overall there was greater interpatient variability in buparlisib pharmacokinetics but there was no evidence of drug–drug interaction between buparlisib and everolimus. B, Representative samples of paired skin biopsy collected at baseline and end of cycle 1 showed evidence of target engagement with expected modulation of biomarkers of the mTOR/PI3K signaling molecules. There was a marked reduction in pS6 and p4EBP1 protein expression between baseline and post-treatment skin biopsy samples. H&E, hematoxylin and eosin.

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Table 3.

Pharmacokinetic characteristics of buparlisib and everolimus.

Variable (mean, median, range)Buparlisib (n = 28)Everolimus (n = 24)
Dose-normalized Cmax (ng/mL/mg) 12.5, 12.2 (5.6–28.3) 8.8, 8.5 (2.2–19.2) 
t1/2 (hour)a 118, 67.7 (14–1,224) 16.7, 16.3 (6.5–27) 
Dose-normalized AUC0-∞ (ng × hour/mL/mg)a 2,041.7, 691.7 (319.7–27,249.9) 120.7, 101 (34.8–315.5) 
Variable (mean, median, range)Buparlisib (n = 28)Everolimus (n = 24)
Dose-normalized Cmax (ng/mL/mg) 12.5, 12.2 (5.6–28.3) 8.8, 8.5 (2.2–19.2) 
t1/2 (hour)a 118, 67.7 (14–1,224) 16.7, 16.3 (6.5–27) 
Dose-normalized AUC0-∞ (ng × hour/mL/mg)a 2,041.7, 691.7 (319.7–27,249.9) 120.7, 101 (34.8–315.5) 

aAUC and t1/2 data available for buparlisib (N = 23) and everolimus (N = 21). The pharmacokinetics of each agent in combination was variable but overall consistent with historic data as single agents. There was greater variability overall in buparlisib pharmacokinetic values.

Targeted therapies against the key nodes in the mTOR/PI3K signaling pathway have been evaluated in solid malignancies, but only allosteric inhibitors of mTOR have established efficacy leading to regulatory approval of everolimus and temsirolimus for the treatment of solid tumors including breast cancer, kidney cancer, and pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (2). The efficacy of this class of agent remains modest and combination strategy to further improve on efficacy has been extensively studied in preclinical models (20, 21). On the other hand, PI3K inhibitors remain investigational without sufficient clinical efficacy to support regulatory approval to date. Our group and others previously showed that the paradoxical AKT activation induced by the inhibition of mTORC1 complex by allosteric mTOR inhibitors such as rapamycin and everolimus can attenuate the anticancer efficacy of these agents (9, 22). However, combined blockade of mTOR and PI3K was able to prevent this AKT activation and resulted in improved efficacy in vitro and in vivo (20, 21). This study is an initial step in our attempt to translate this preclinical observation of improved efficacy with multilevel inhibition of the mTOR/PI3K/AKT pathway to the clinic.

We observed in this phase I study that the combination of everolimus and buparlisib was feasible and the observed toxicity pattern was generally consistent with single-agent toxicity of each agent (18, 23, 24). However, the combination was clearly associated with heightened additive toxicity, which prevented dose escalation to the maximum single-agent dose of each agent. At the maximum dose of everolimus of 10 mg, the addition of 60 mg buparlisib led to intolerable hyperglycemia in 2 of 3 patients treated with this combination and all 3 patients experienced a DLT as defined per protocol. There was an excessive toxicity of fatigue at the highest dose of buparlisib tested of 80 mg in combination with a reduced dose of everolimus at 5 mg. This dose of everolimus is 50% of its maximum single-agent dose and the combination was associated with DLT in 2 of 6 patients. In addition, 2 patients who cleared cycle 1 of this combination dose without DLT later experienced neurotoxicity leading to treatment discontinuation during the second cycle of treatment. Central nervous system (CNS) side effects such as mood disorder and anxiety were previously reported as an attributable toxicity of buparlisib at the highest doses studied in this phase I trial. The report of memory impairment by some of the older patients in our study population is therefore consistent with the expected toxicity of buparlisib. Since completion of this trial, a published investigation of twice daily everolimus showed reduced toxicity compared with daily dosing, suggesting this strategy may also increase tolerability of combination approaches (25). In addition, we observed patients with higher than expected buparlisib exposures; however, an interaction with everolimus does not account for these, and was not observed across dose levels.

Despite the inability to combine the study agents at their maximum single-agent dose, we still observed signal of efficacy in this study. There was significant clinical benefit at all dose combinations tested. For instance, a patient with heavily pretreated thymic carcinoma treated at the starting dose level 1 of buparlisib 20 mg and everolimus 5 mg completed 21 cycles of treatment. While this is just a single case, it is an intriguing observation nonetheless, given the signal of efficacy with single-agent everolimus recently reported in thymic carcinoma and thymoma (26). The duration of benefit in our index patients was approximately 20 months, which is almost quadruple the reported median PFS of 5.6 months with single-agent everolimus, suggesting an improved efficacy of the combined mTOR and PI3K inhibitors (26). In addition, we noted an interesting median time on treatment of 6 months (range, 1–8 months) in 7 evaluable patients with advanced lung cancer treated at the RP2D. This is a promising signal when compared with the BASLAT-1 study of single-agent buparlisib in PI3K-mutant NSCLC, which was closed because of futility at a planned interim analysis (27). That study reported a negligible median PFS of 2.79 months [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.38–3.71] in the patients with squamous NSCLC and 2.83 months (95% CI, 1.41–3.58) in the patients with nonsquamous NSCLC treated with single-agent buparlisib (27). Similarly, single-agent everolimus failed to show any meaningful clinical activity in pretreated NSCLC with median PFS of only 2.6 months (28). This clinical signal of efficacy despite reduced doses of the two agents in combination is consistent with preclinical modeling suggesting improved efficacy of combined mTOR/PI3K inhibitor at doses below the single maximum single-agent dose for each agent (20, 21). Future PI3K inhibitor development will ideally build on the mechanistic rationale alone and in combinations while identifying structure–activity relationships for PI3K subtypes that minimize adverse events such as CNS and constitutional symptoms. Mitigation of adverse events through increased monitoring and early adjustments may also improve tolerability.

In conclusion, the combination of everolimus and buparlisib is tolerable at reduced but efficacious doses of the two agents. Signal of activity seen in patients with NSCLC and thymic carcinoma requires further evaluation in a larger and more homogenous patient population.

T.K. Owonikoko is an employee/paid consultant for and reports receiving commercial research grants from Novartis. R.D. Harvey is an employee/paid consultant for GlaxoSmithKline, Takeda, and Genentech. C. Lewis is an employee/paid consultant for G1 Therapeutics and reports receiving speakers bureau honoraria from Genentech. M.A. Bilen is an advisory board member/unpaid consultant for Bristol-Myers Squibb, Exelixis, Sanofi, EMD Serono, Nektar, Janssen, Genomic Health, Pfizer, and Seattle Genetics. C.E. Steuer is an employee/paid consultant for Abbvie, Bergen Bio, Armo, and Eli Lilly. C. Wu reports receiving speakers bureau honoraria from Array BioPharma. R.R. Kudchagkar reports receiving commercial research grants from Merck and is an advisory board member/unpaid consultant for Bristol-Myers Squibb, Novartis, Regeneron, Immunocore, and Array. S. Lonial is an employee/paid consultant for Takeda, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene, Novartis, Janssen, GlaxoSmithKline, and Merck. S.S. Ramalingam is an employee/paid consultant for Amgen, Astra Zeneca, BMS, Merck, Roche, Tesaro, and Takeda, and reports receiving commercial research grants from Amgen, Advaxis, BMS, Astra Zeneca, Merck, Tesaro, Takeda, and Pfizer. No potential conflicts of interest were disclosed by the other authors.

The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIHhttp://dx.doi.org/10.13039/100000002.

Conception and design: T.K. Owonikoko, R.D. Harvey, Z. Chen, S. Lonial, S.S. Ramalingam, F.R. Khuri

Development of methodology: T.K. Owonikoko, R.D. Harvey, S.S. Ramalingam, F.R. Khuri

Acquisition of data (provided animals, acquired and managed patients, provided facilities, etc.): T.K. Owonikoko, R.D. Harvey, B. Carthon, Z. Chen, C. Lewis, D.H. Lawson, O.B. Alese, G.L. Sica, C.E. Steuer, M. Akce, B.F. El-Rayes, S.S. Ramalingam

Analysis and interpretation of data (e.g., statistical analysis, biostatistics, computational analysis): T.K. Owonikoko, R.D. Harvey, Z. Chen, C. Zhang, C.E. Steuer, S. Lonial, S.S. Ramalingam, F.R. Khuri

Writing, review, and/or revision of the manuscript: T.K. Owonikoko, R.D. Harvey, B. Carthon, Z. Chen, H. Collins, C. Zhang, O.B. Alese, M.A. Bilen, C.E. Steuer, W.L. Shaib, C. Wu, W.B. Harris, M. Akce, R.R. Kudchagkar, B.F. El-Rayes, S. Lonial, S.S. Ramalingam, F.R. Khuri

Administrative, technical, or material support (i.e., reporting or organizing data, constructing databases): T.K. Owonikoko, R.D. Harvey

Study supervision: T.K. Owonikoko, R.D. Harvey, C. Lewis, C.E. Steuer, R.R. Kudchagkar, B.F. El-Rayes

Novartis Oncology provided funding support and study drugs, everolimus and buparlisib, to study participants. We appreciate the assistance of Vincent Duval, PhD with pharmacokinetic analysis for buparlisib and everolimus. Research reported in this article was supported in part by the Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Shared Resource and the Cancer Tissue and Pathology Shared Resource of Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University and NIH/NCI under award number P30CA138292 (to Z. Chen, G.L. Sica, S. Lonial, and S.S. Ramalingam).

The costs of publication of this article were defrayed in part by the payment of page charges. This article must therefore be hereby marked advertisement in accordance with 18 U.S.C. Section 1734 solely to indicate this fact.

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