Roche Cancer Drug Rises To Challenge ...
Home  »  Community News  »  Roche Cancer Drug Ri...
Nov
27
Sandeep Singh Dhillon
Roche Cancer Drug Rises To Challenge Merck, Bristol-Myers – Forbes
Pharma News, Pharma Notables
0
, ,

By Matthew Herper

Tecentriq, a cancer immunotherapy developed by the Swiss drug giant Roche, slowed the progression of previously untreated lung cancer in a large clinical trial when combined with a chemotherapy regimen, the drug giant said.

“We are extremely encouraged by these results and will submit these data to health authorities globally with the goal of bringing a potential new standard of care for the initial treatment of lung cancer,” said Sandra Horning, MD, Roche’s Chief Medical Officer said in a press release

The news represents the latest upset among a class of new medicines that unlock the body’s ability to fight tumors. These medicines, called PD-1 inhibitors, are already big sellers for Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck. In the third quarter of 2017, Bristol’s Opdivo generated $1.3 billion in sales; Merck’s Keytruda generated $1 billion. Financial analysts at Wall Street banks forecast that by 2022, these drugs will generate annual global sales of $25 billion a year, with the bulk of sales going to Bristol and Merck.

Merck has pulled ahead of Bristol, the pioneer in developing these drugs, because an early Merck trial in first-line lung cancer succeeded, while a similar study from Bristol failed, baffling investors and researchers. Keytruda is approved in advanced non-small lung cancer in patients whose tumors express a protein called PD-L1 above a certain level, or in combination with the chemotherapy drugs Alimta and carboplatin. Today’s Roche result complicates things further, because Roche used a different combination of drugs

Roche’s study had three arms. All patients received carboplatin and paclitaxel, the cancer drug once sold as Taxol. The control group also received Avastin, one of Roche’s best-selling cancer drugs. Then two groups got Tecentriq, one with Avastin and one without. What Roche has announced today is that the Avastin-Tecentriq-chemotherapy combination did better than Avastin and chemotherapy alone, and that the survival results so far are “encouraging.” That leaves a big question: how are the patients who got Tecentriq, but not Avastin, doing?

It’s impossible to know exactly what this will mean until the full results of the study are presented. (Companies release early results by press release because they are considered too important to investors to keep secret.) In morning trading, Roche shares are up as much as 5.6%, and Merck shares are down 2%. But two analysts, Umer Raffat of Evercore/ISI and Timothy Anderson at Bernstein Research. commented that the results could actually be seen as a validation of the general Merck approach of combining PD-1 drugs with chemotherapy. Rivals, including Bristol and AstraZeneca, have favored combining them with another type of immunotherapy drug, called a CTLA4 inhibitor, such as Bristol’s Yervoy.

One big question will be how the chemotherapy regimens stack up against the CTLA4 combinations. Another will be how they stack up against each other. How will doctors compare the Merck and Roche drug regimens? How will insurance companies decide which ones to cover? Anderson, the Bernstein analyst, said that investors are likely to not view Roche as a big threat because it is entering the market late. But he also wrote that the trial is “one important piece of a complex, still largely incomplete, puzzle.” Bernstein forecasts 2022 Tecentriq sales of $3.7 billion, less than half as much as for Opdivo or Keytruda.



Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.