PURPOSE: Targeting focal adhesion kinase (FAK) renders checkpoint immunotherapy effective in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) mouse model. Defactinib is a highly potent oral FAK inhibitor that has a tolerable safety profile. PATIENTS AND METHODS: We conducted a multicenter, open-label, phase I study with dose escalation and expansion phases. In dose escalation, patients with refractory solid tumors were treated at five escalating dose levels of defactinib and gemcitabine to identify a recommended phase II dose (RP2D). In expansion phase, patients with metastatic PDAC who progressed on frontline treatment (refractory cohort) or had stable disease (SD) after at least 4 months of standard gemcitabine/nab-paclitaxel (maintenance cohort) were treated at RP2D. Pre- and posttreatment tumor biopsies were performed to evaluate tumor immunity. RESULTS: The triple drug combination was well-tolerated, with no dose-limiting toxicities. Among 20 treated patients with refractory PDAC, the disease control rate (DCR) was 80%, with one partial response (PR) and 15 SDs, and the median progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS) were 3.6 and 7.8 months, respectively. Among 10 evaluable patients in the maintenance cohort, DCR was 70% with one PR and six SDs. Three patients with SD came off study due to treatment- or disease-related complications. The median PFS and OS on study treatment were 5.0 and 8.3 months, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: The combination of defactinib, pembrolizumab, and gemcitabine was well-tolerated and safe, had promising preliminary efficacy, and showed biomarker activity in infiltrative T lymphocytes. Efficacy of this strategy may require incorporation of more potent chemotherapy in future studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5254-5262
Number of pages9
JournalClinical cancer research : an official journal of the American Association for Cancer Research
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 15 2022


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