#ASCO21: EQRx's cheaper EGFR drug busts Iressa in head-to-head test, and a US filing could be right down the road
With a slew of pricey oncology drugs dominating the market, disruptor EQRx has pledged to launch its own discounted competitors to bring the fight to Big Pharma’s pocketbook. One of EQRx’s hopefuls, an EGFR inhibitor, busted one of AstraZeneca’s old-guard drugs in a head-to-head test, and those results could put an even bigger game in the biotech’s sights.
EQRx and Hansoh Pharma’s aumolertinib posted a progression-free survival of 19.3 months in first-line, advanced non-small cell lung cancer patients compared with 9.9 months for patients on AstraZeneca’s TKI inhibitor Iressa (gefitinib), according to full data from the Phase III AENEAS study set to presented in June at ASCO.
Topline data from that 429-patient study were released in June and positioned the partners well for a full global rollout for the drug, which is already approved in China to treat patients with EGFR T790 mutation-positive, metastatic NSCLC after a prior EGFR TKI therapy.
After one year of follow-up, 69% of aumolertinib patients were free of disease progression compared with 46% of patients on Iressa. Improvements in PFS were seen across a range of subgroups, including in those with brain metastases, the companies said in a statement. Meanwhile, the study has yet to hit its OS cutoff.
EQRx said it and Hansoh planned to pursue discussions with regulators in “multiple countries” immediately.
The drug’s safety results were manageable, EQRx said, with fewer patients forced to stop dosing due to side effects than those on Iressa. The newer drug also saw lower rates of common side effects like rash and diarrhea with no new safety signals flagged.
Aumolertinib is one of a slate of late-stage, in-licensed drugs key to EQRx’s mission to upset the pricey oncology market with discounted competitors to big-name drugs. In EGFR, the obvious target is AstraZeneca’s Tagrisso, which picked up $1.15 million in sales in Q1. The drug comes with a list price of roughly $16,000 for a 30-day supply.
Alongside the EGFR inhibitor, which the biotech is developing globally with Hansoh, EQRx has three other late-stage candidates, including PD-(L)1 antibody sugemalimab, a PD-1 antibody formerly dubbed CS1003 and CDK4/6 inhibitor lerociclib.
In January, EQRx snared a $500 million Series B round to push those candidates through the clinic and on to approval. Once planning to have its first in-house drug candidate ready for market in 2025, EQRx “accelerated the whole plan of the company” with licensing deals signed this year for those four drugs, CEO Alexis Borisy told Endpoints News at the time.
Now, one or more could be commercialized by 2025, a “hot start” that has required EQRx to ramp up its efforts to bring payers and the “global buyers’ club” on board its mission to bring rock bottom-priced oncology and inflammatory products to market.