Can Den­dreon’s new Provenge da­ta help ig­nite a turn­around for the fad­ed can­cer star?

Two years ago, when Valeant bought Den­dreon and its prostate can­cer cell ther­a­py Provenge out of bank­rupt­cy for $400 mil­lion, ob­servers marked it as an­oth­er step down a long and bumpy spi­ral for a treat­ment that had once been cel­e­brat­ed as a his­toric break­through. Valeant was the sole bid­der and a bad match.

Then CEO J. Michael Pear­son called the ac­qui­si­tion an ef­fec­tive way to launch Valeant in­to the can­cer field — but Pear­son wasn’t head­ed any­where. A year lat­er, the CEO was out the door and Valeant was in ut­ter dis­ar­ray as its busi­ness mod­el of buy­ing drugs and jack­ing the price be­came a ra­dioac­tive source of con­tro­ver­sy.

Provenge, though, has sur­vived the lat­est chap­ter of its trou­bled his­to­ry. A Chi­nese com­pa­ny, San­pow­er Group, struck a deal to buy the cell ther­a­py — built from cells ex­tract­ed from pa­tients — for $820 mil­lion, look­ing to pen­e­trate the huge Chi­nese can­cer drug mar­ket.  And the ex­ec­u­tive crew that runs Den­dreon re­leased new “re­al world” da­ta over the week­end to un­der­score its ef­fec­tive­ness among African-Amer­i­can men, push­ing to ex­pand the mar­ket and aware­ness for a drug that had been eclipsed by Xtan­di and Zyti­ga.

When the FDA ap­proved Provenge 7 years ago, it re­quired Den­dreon to set up a pa­tient reg­istry to track its im­pact. And now Den­dreon, look­ing to stage a come­back, has post­ed some of the new da­ta they’ve drawn from the reg­istry to un­der­score its po­ten­tial for a sub­set of African-Amer­i­can pa­tients primed to de­liv­er the best out­comes.

Com­par­ing African-Amer­i­cans and whites with sim­i­lar base­line char­ac­ter­is­tics, Den­dreon notes that they tracked an over­all sur­vival ben­e­fit of 9.3 months com­pared with Cau­casians (37.3 months vs 28.0 months, re­spec­tive­ly). And if you re­strict to pa­tients with PSA lev­els be­low me­di­an amounts, “African-Amer­i­can pa­tients demon­strat­ed an ad­di­tion­al OS ben­e­fit of near­ly two ad­di­tion­al years (20.9 months) com­pared with Cau­casian pa­tients (54.3 months vs. 33.4 months, re­spec­tive­ly).”

The da­ta were pre­sent­ed over the week­end at the 112th Amer­i­can Uro­log­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion An­nu­al Meet­ing in Boston by lead au­thor A. Oliv­er Sar­tor.

Jim Caggiano

Jim Caggiano, pres­i­dent of Den­dreon, says the da­ta un­der­score the val­ue of us­ing Provenge at an ear­ly stage of the dis­ease, par­tic­u­lar­ly among African-Amer­i­can men who suf­fer from a sig­nif­i­cant­ly high­er risk of death from prostate can­cer.

“Den­dreon is back and bet­ter than ever,” Caggiano told me ahead of the da­ta re­view. “These find­ings are im­por­tant for all men.”

These new da­ta mark a big step to­ward ex­pand­ing the mar­ket for Provenge, says Caggiano, who was orig­i­nal­ly hired in­to Den­dreon by for­mer CEO Mitch Gold back in 2004 as the head of its sales ef­fort.

Gold, now back at work as a biotech en­tre­pre­neur, al­so out­lined some huge sales fore­casts that caused quick and painful trou­ble for Den­dreon. With new, more eas­i­ly ad­min­is­tered drugs ri­val­ing Provenge, the au­tol­o­gous cell ther­a­py nev­er had a chance to com­pare well.

Caggiano, though, says that the drug is be­ing used by a grow­ing group of pa­tients. Last year about 4,000 men were treat­ed with Provenge, he says, up from about 3,500. And San­pow­er’s will­ing­ness to pay more than twice what Valeant need­ed to pluck it out of bank­rupt­cy un­der­scores the grow­ing at­trac­tion.

San­pow­er should com­plete the buy­out soon, says Caggiano, and that will set the stage for new stud­ies to test Provenge with surgery and ra­di­a­tion, look­ing for ev­i­dence that an ag­gres­sive com­bi­na­tion can be cu­ra­tive.

Provenge is a long way from dy­ing out, says the Den­dreon pres­i­dent with all the en­thu­si­asm of a head cheer­leader. And he in­tends to try. But not every­one at the meet­ing was im­pressed.


The DCT-OS: A Tech­nol­o­gy-first Op­er­at­ing Sys­tem - En­abling Clin­i­cal Tri­als

As technology-enabled clinical research becomes the new normal, an integrated decentralized clinical trial operating system can ensure quality, deliver consistency and improve the patient experience.

The increasing availability of COVID-19 vaccines has many of us looking forward to a time when everyday things return to a state of normal. Schools and teachers are returning to classrooms, offices and small businesses are reopening, and there’s a palpable sense of optimism that the often-awkward adjustments we’ve all made personally and professionally in the last year are behind us, never to return. In the world of clinical research, however, some pandemic-necessitated adjustments are proving to be more than emergency stopgap measures to ensure trial continuity — and numerous decentralized clinical trial (DCT) tools and methodologies employed within the last year are likely here to stay as part of biopharma’s new normal.

'Chang­ing the whole game of drug dis­cov­ery': Leg­endary R&D vet Roger Perl­mut­ter leaps back in­to work as a biotech CEO

Roger Perlmutter needs no introduction to anyone remotely involved in biopharma. As the R&D chief first at Amgen and then Merck, he’s built a stellar reputation and a prolific career steering new drugs toward the market for everything from cancer to infectious diseases.

But for years, he’s also held a less known title: science partner at The Column Group, where he’s regularly consulted about the various ideas the VCs had for new startups.

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FDA ex­tends re­search agree­ment with MIT-li­censed or­gan-on-chip sys­tems

The FDA on Wednesday extended its four-year agreement with CN Bio, a developer of single- and multi-organ-on-chip systems used for drug discovery, for another three years.

CN Bio said the scope of the research performed by the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research has expanded to include the exploration of the company’s lung-on-a-chip system to help with the agency’s evaluation of inhaled drugs, in addition to the agency’s work on its liver model.

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In quest to meet user fee goals, FDA’s per­for­mance con­tin­ues down­ward trend

A recent update to the FDA’s running tally of how it’s meeting its user fee-related performance goals during the pandemic shows an agency that is not out of the woods yet.

The latest numbers reveal that for a second straight quarter in 2021, the FDA has met its user fee goal dates for 93% of original new drug applications, which compares with 94% and 98% for the previous two quarters in 2020, respectively.

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UP­DAT­ED: Pfiz­er hits the brakes on their piv­otal tri­al for a BC­MA/CD3 bis­pe­cif­ic on safe­ty con­cerns while FDA road­block is hold­ing up Duchenne MD PhI­II

Pfizer’s ambitious plan to take a Phase II study of its BCMA CD3-targeted bispecific antibody elranatamab (PF-06863135) and run it through to an accelerated approval has derailed.

The pharma giant said in a release this morning that they have halted enrollment for their MagnetisMM-3 study after researchers tracked three cases of peripheral neuropathy in the ongoing Phase I. They are now sharing info with the FDA as they explore the red safety flag.

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Thomas Schall, ChemoCentryx CEO (file photo)

Chemo­Cen­tryx plunges as FDA rais­es ques­tions about rare dis­ease drug ahead of ad­comm

ChemoCentryx’s stock price on Wednesday was cut in half by the release of FDA briefing documents ahead of a Thursday adcomm, raising questions on the company’s clinical data to support avacopan as a treatment for adults with a rare and serious disease known as anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic autoantibody (ANCA)-vasculitis.

ANCA-associated vasculitides (AAV) affect small to medium-size blood vessels that can be fatal in less than a year if left untreated, according to FDA. Only Roche’s Rituxan is currently FDA-approved for the treatment of AAV, while glucocorticoids are approved for the broader indication of vasculitis.

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Re­gen­eron’s gold­en goose Eylea may stave off biosim­i­lar com­pe­ti­tion un­til 2024 or be­yond

Almost 10 years have passed since its first FDA approval and Regeneron’s macular degeneration injection Eylea continues to pile up sales to the tune of about $5 billion per year, or more than half of Regeneron’s annual revenues.

Those billions are not expected to go anywhere anytime soon thanks to competition, even as Novartis subsidiary Sandoz announced Monday that it’s beginning a Phase III trial for an Eylea biosimilar in 460 patients across 20 countries.

Cynthia Butitta (L) and Joe Jimenez

Is that an­oth­er IPO in the mak­ing? Ex-No­var­tis CEO Joe Jimenez and a lead Kite play­er take up new posts at an off-the-shelf ri­val to 2 pi­o­neer­ing drugs

Right on the heels of taking on a $160 million crossover round in a likely leap to Nasdaq, Century Therapeutics CEO Lalo Flores is now pushing ahead with the high-profile ex-Novartis chief Joe Jimenez as chairman.

Jimenez’s greatest fame at Novartis was earned for one of its weakest products, as their pioneering personalized CAR-T Kymriah won the honors for the first such drug to make it to the market. Now a host of players, including Century, are barreling in behind the frontrunners with allogeneic rivals that can be created for off-the-shelf use.

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An em­ploy­ee com­plaint at Eli Lil­ly's Branch­burg plant al­leges al­tered qual­i­ty con­trol docs amid FDA probe — re­port

Eli Lilly was one of the earliest players in the race for a Covid-19 antibody, but a series of setbacks at a New Jersey manufacturing site have set back its efforts. Now, an internal complaint reportedly claims that a director at that site knowingly fudged quality control docs right under the FDA’s nose.

An employee complaint from Eli Lilly’s manufacturing plant in Branchburg, NJ, alleged that a director altered documents handed over to FDA regulators as part of an effort to downplay serious quality control issues amid the agency’s probe at the site, Reuters reported.