Af­ter kick­back from the FDA, Bris­tol-My­ers yanks its Op­di­vo/Yer­voy BLA for high TMB ap­proach to lung can­cer

Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb has had a hard time win­ning an­a­lysts over to its strat­e­gy for carv­ing out a high­er mar­ket share for its check­point com­bo in non-small cell lung can­cer. And now you can add the FDA to the list of skep­tics re­quir­ing more da­ta to con­vince them.

In their Q4 re­lease Thurs­day morn­ing Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb says it is yank­ing its BLA for Op­di­vo com­bined with Yer­voy for front­line NSCLC cas­es with high tu­mor mu­ta­tion­al bur­den — or TMB — af­ter talks with the agency con­vinced them they need­ed more da­ta to high­light the con­nec­tion be­tween TMB and PD-L1.

Their state­ment:

This analy­sis will re­quire avail­abil­i­ty of the fi­nal da­ta from Check­mate -227, Part 1a (Op­di­vo plus low-dose Yer­voy or Op­di­vo monother­a­py ver­sus chemother­a­py in pa­tients whose tu­mors ex­press PD-L1), which the com­pa­ny an­tic­i­pates will be avail­able in the first-half of 2019. Since these da­ta from Check­mate -227, Part 1a, will not be avail­able with­in the re­view cy­cle of the cur­rent ap­pli­ca­tion the com­pa­ny de­cid­ed to with­draw.

Bris­tol-My­ers’ stock took a 2.4% hit in trad­ing ahead of the open­ing bell.

Long­time ob­servers have been puz­zling out the whole TMB ap­proach, which As­traZeneca has al­so been turn­ing to in the wake of its own PD-L1/CT­LA-4 set­backs with Imfinzi and treme­li­mum­ab. Bris­tol-My­ers re­designed its crit­i­cal late-stage tri­al to shift to TMB, and it has not played out in their fa­vor — so far.

Af­ter Mer­ck seized the lead in lung can­cer with its su­pe­ri­or Keytru­da/chemo com­bo, Bris­tol-My­ers’ team led by R&D chief Tom Lynch has been strug­gling to make a come­back. Typ­i­cal­ly, the FDA has been wide open — at least in re­cent years — to ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­provals for can­cer drugs. In this case, Bris­tol-My­ers found that the bar has been raised as physi­cians em­ploy a grow­ing num­ber of PD-1/L1s in their prac­tice.

Cred­it Su­isse’s bio­phar­ma team took at look at the news and con­clud­ed that, on bal­ance, Bris­tol-My­ers’ move rais­es fresh con­cerns.

We did not think an ap­proval for that fil­ing would have made much of a near-term com­mer­cial im­pact any­way, but it does raise new ques­tions on the com­pa­ny’s over­all strat­e­gy and ap­proach in 1L NSCLC.

In an up­date last Oc­to­ber, re­searchers for Bris­tol-My­ers not­ed that the haz­ard ra­tio for their com­bo was roughy iden­ti­cal for high and low TMB groups get­ting the com­bo, but the over­all sur­vival rate was 23 months for high TMB pa­tients at 16.7 months in a chemo arm with high TMB. There was al­so a dif­fer­ence of a few months for the low TMB group.

The set­back comes just weeks af­ter Bris­tol-My­ers an­nounced its plan to ac­quire Cel­gene for $74 bil­lion. And to­day there was a big fo­cus on the top late-stage drugs they will gain from Cel­gene: Ozan­i­mod, with a Q1 re­fil­ing plan; the CAR-T Liso-cel (JCAR017 from the Juno buy­out), with an H2 2019 fil­ing plan; and the an­ti-BC­MA CAR-T bb2121 part­nered with blue­bird, fil­ing in H1 2020. All that has to counter ques­tions re­volv­ing around the IP for Revlim­id.

The lat­est prob­lem with the Op­di­vo fran­chise over­shad­owed the com­pa­ny’s Q4 and 2018 fi­nan­cial re­port, which high­light­ed a 10% hike in sales. Op­di­vo it­self earned $6.7 bil­lion last year, up from just un­der $5 bil­lion in 2017. The rest of the ap­proved slate pf PD-1/L1s has been strug­gling to get in­to the same league with Mer­ck and Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb.


Im­age: Thomas Lynch at BIO 2018. ROB TAN­NEN­BAUM for END­POINTS NEWS

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Tim Schoen, BioMed Realty CEO

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