As­traZeneca rolls out 'un­prece­dent­ed' 3-year sur­vival da­ta for PD-L1/CT­LA4 com­bo in liv­er can­cer

Months af­ter As­traZeneca tout­ed a ma­jor over­all sur­vival win for its Imfinzi/treme­li­mum­ab com­bo, the com­pa­ny is ready to spell out what it calls “un­prece­dent­ed” re­sults.

In a Phase III study dubbed HI­MALAYA, 1,324 pa­tients with un­re­sectable he­pa­to­cel­lu­lar car­ci­no­ma were ran­dom­ized in­to three co­horts: one re­ceiv­ing the STRIDE reg­i­men — a sin­gle prim­ing dose of the CT­LA4 drug treme­li­mum­ab and then PD-L1 in­hibitor Imfinzi every four weeks — an­oth­er tak­ing Imfinzi alone and the third re­ceiv­ing Nex­avar (so­rafenib), the stan­dard of care.

Not on­ly did the CT­LA4/PD-L1 com­bo cut the risk of death by 22% com­pared to so­rafenib, in­ves­ti­ga­tors al­so re­port­ed that al­most 31% of pa­tients in that group are still alive at the three-year check-in, com­pared to just 20% in the so­rafenib arm.

Source: As­traZeneca

Click on the im­age to see the full-sized ver­sion

“The three-year over­all sur­vival rate and favourable safe­ty pro­file seen with the STRIDE reg­i­men set a new bench­mark in this set­ting,” said Ghas­san Abou-Al­fa, the prin­ci­pal in­ves­ti­ga­tor of the tri­al and an at­tend­ing physi­cian at Memo­r­i­al Sloan Ket­ter­ing Can­cer Cen­ter.

Me­di­an OS in the Imfinzi group is ac­tu­al­ly slight­ly high­er than the STRIDE reg­i­men (by 0.2 months), but both are longer than the 13.8 months shown in the so­rafenib group.

On the safe­ty side, As­traZeneca re­port­ed that more pa­tients treat­ed with the STRIDE reg­i­men ex­pe­ri­enced Grade 3 or 4 treat­ment-re­lat­ed ad­verse events than those who got Imfinizi monother­a­py — 25.8% ver­sus 12.9% — but not­ed it’s still low­er than the 36.9% rate for so­rafenib.

As­traZeneca has been on a years-long quest to tease out a way to ful­ly un­leash the can­cer-killing pow­er of the im­mune sys­tem through adding a CT­LA4 to its PD-L1, even as it fell far be­hind Bris­tol My­ers Squibb’s promi­nent PD-1/CT­LA4 com­bo, Op­di­vo plus Yer­voy. Af­ter years of tri­al and er­ror, re­cent read­outs from stud­ies like HI­MALAYA and PO­SEI­DON ap­peared to be set­ting the stage for a turn­around.

The HI­MALAYA da­ta in par­tic­u­lar could ce­ment a fil­ing in the first-line set­ting — aim­ing to reach pa­tients who had not re­ceived pri­or sys­temic ther­a­py and were not el­i­gi­ble for lo­cal­ized treat­ment. An­oth­er PD-L1, Roche’s Tecen­triq, is ap­proved for a sim­i­lar set of pa­tients in com­bi­na­tion with Avastin.

M&A: a crit­i­cal dri­ver for sus­tain­able top-line growth in health­care

2021 saw a record $600B in healthcare M&A activity. In 2022, there is an anticipated slowdown in activity, however, M&A prospects remain strong in the medium to long-term. What are future growth drivers for the healthcare sector? Where might we see innovations that drive M&A? RBC’s Andrew Callaway, Global Head, Healthcare Investment Banking discusses with Vito Sperduto, Global Co-Head, M&A.

15 LGBTQ lead­ers in bio­phar­ma; Paul Stof­fels’ Gala­pa­gos re­vamp; As­traZeneca catch­es up in AT­TR; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

A return to in-person conferences also marks a return to on-the-ground reporting. My colleagues Beth Synder Bulik and Nicole DeFeudis were on-site at Cannes Lions, bringing live coverage of pharma’s presence at the ad festival — accompanied by photos from Clara Bui, our virtual producer, that bring you right to the scene. You can find a recap (and links to all the stories) below.

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David Loew (Ipsen)

Ipsen snags an ap­proved can­cer drug in $247M M&A deal as an­oth­er bat­tered biotech sells cheap

You can add Paris-based Ipsen to the list of discount buyers patrolling the penny stock pack for a cheap M&A deal.

The French biotech, which has had plenty of its own problems to grapple with, has swooped in to buy Epizyme $EPZM for $247 million in cash and a CVR with milestones attached to it. Epizyme shareholders, who had to suffer through a painfully soft launch of their EZH2a inhibitor cancer drug Tazverik, will get $1.45 per share along with a $1 CVR tied to achieving $250 million in sales from the drug over four consecutive quarters as well as an OK for second-line follicular lymphoma by 1 Jan. 2028.

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AstraZeneca's new Evusheld direct to consumer campaign aims to reach more immunocompromised patients.

As­traZeneca de­buts first con­sumer cam­paign for its Covid-19 pro­phy­lac­tic Evusheld — and a first for EUA drugs

AstraZeneca’s first consumer ad for Evusheld is also a first for drugs that have been granted emergency use authorizations during the pandemic.

The first DTC ad for a medicine under emergency approval, the Evusheld campaign launching this week aims to raise awareness among immunocompromised patients — and spur more use.

Evusheld nabbed emergency authorization in December, however, despite millions of immunocompromised people looking for a solution and now more widespread availability of the drug.

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GSK says its drug for chron­ic hep B could ‘lead to a func­tion­al cure’ — but will it be alone or in com­bi­na­tion?

GSK, newly branded and soon-to-be demerged, shared interim results from its Phase II trial on its chronic hepatitis B treatment, one that it says has the “potential to lead to a functional cure.”

At a presentation at the EASL International Liver Congress, GSK shared that in around 450 patients who received its hep B drug bepirovirsen for 24 weeks, just under 30% had hepatitis B surface antigen and viral DNA levels that were too low to detect.

De­spite a slow start to the year for deals, PwC pre­dicts a flur­ry of ac­tiv­i­ty com­ing up

Despite whispers of a busy year for M&A, deal activity in the pharma space is actually down 30% on a semi-annualized basis, according to PwC’s latest report on deal activity. But don’t rule out larger deals in the second half of the year, the consultants said.

PwC pharmaceutical and life sciences consulting solutions leader Glenn Hunzinger expects to see Big Pharma companies picking up earlier stage companies to try and fill pipeline gaps ahead of a slew of big patent cliffs. Though a bear market continues to maul the biotech sector, Hunzinger said recent deals indicate that pharma companies are still paying above current trading prices.

Joe Wiley, Amryt Pharma CEO

Am­ryt Phar­ma sub­mits a for­mal dis­pute res­o­lu­tion to the FDA over re­ject­ed skin dis­ease drug

The story of Amryt Pharma’s candidate for the genetic skin condition epidermolysis bullosa, or EB, will soon enter another chapter.

After the Irish drugmaker’s candidate, dubbed Oleogel-S10 and marketed as Filsuvez, was handed a CRL earlier this year, the company announced in a press release that it plans to submit a formal dispute resolution request for the company’s NDA for Oleogel-S10.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) (J. Scott Applewhite/AP Images)

Phar­ma-friend­ly sen­a­tor calls on FDA for a third time to show patent pro­tec­tions should­n't be blamed for high drug prices

North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis made a name for himself in the 2020 election cycle as the darling of the pharma industry, accepting hundreds of thousands in campaign contributions, even from the likes of Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla.

Those contributions have led Tillis to attempt to re-write patent laws in pharma’s favor, a move which failed to gain steam in 2019, and request for a third time since January that the FDA should help stop “the false narrative that patent protections are to blame for high drug prices.”

EMA signs off on 3 drugs re­cent­ly re­ject­ed by FDA, in­clud­ing Bio­Mar­in's new he­mo­phil­ia gene ther­a­py

The EMA’s human medicines committee on Friday recommended three new drugs for approval or conditional approval, even as their US counterparts have rejected these three for various reasons.

In a major move, CHMP offered a thumbs-up to a conditional marketing authorization for the first gene therapy to treat severe hemophilia A, although the agency cautioned that it’s so far unknown how long the effects of infusion will last.

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