PhI­II lung can­cer da­ta sig­nal po­ten­tial ap­proval for As­traZeneca's Imfinzi

The da­ta on As­traZeneca’s Phase III Imfinzi tri­al are out, and it bodes well for the UK out­fit’s bid to get their sig­na­ture im­munother­a­py ap­proved for front­line small-cell lung can­cer (SCLC).

Pa­tients re­ceiv­ing the PD-L1 Imfinzi (along­side a stan­dard chemother­a­py reg­i­men) in As­traZeneca’s CASPI­AN study sur­vived for 13 months on av­er­age, com­pared with 10.3 months for pa­tients re­ceiv­ing the stan­dard of care. Those num­bers com­pare fa­vor­ably to the re­sults of the piv­otal study that pushed Roche’s PD-L1 Tecen­triq across the fin­ish line. Tecen­triq pa­tients had an OS of 12.3 months in that study, which was an­nounced six months be­fore the FDA ap­proved the drug for front­line SCLC. 

In­ves­ti­ga­tors al­so tout­ed their drug’s dura­bil­i­ty, with 33.9% of pa­tients still alive at 18 months fol­low­ing treat­ment with Imfinzi plus chemother­a­py vs 24.7% of pa­tients fol­low­ing the stan­dard of care.

The study may prove a ma­jor boon for As­traZeneca in the heady race to ex­pand their mar­kets for PD-1/L1 drugs — and in the drug­mak­er’s steady growth in the lung can­cer mar­ket. Last year, its stand­out Tagris­so was ap­proved for front­line treat­ment of EGFR-mu­tat­ed non-small cell lung can­cer. And Imfinzi has seized an im­por­tant niche in the lung can­cer mar­ket with its ap­proval for stage III non-small cell lung can­cer.

Al­though it ac­counts for less than 20% of lung can­cer cas­es, SCLC re­mains par­tic­u­lar­ly dif­fi­cult to treat.

PD-1 and PD-L1 drugs work by in­hibit­ing pro­teins can­cer cells use to block T cells from at­tack­ing them. This makes them a prime fo­cus for on­col­o­gy re­search, and six PD-1/L1 im­munother­a­pies, both for SCLC and a slew of oth­er can­cers, have al­ready been ap­proved by the FDA, with a host of tri­als un­der­way to ex­pand their use. 

Mer­ck has been the leader in PD-1/L1 thus far, with its sig­na­ture drug Keytru­da pro­ject­ed to be a glob­al top-10 block­buster by 2024. 

For As­traZeneca, the Phase III CASPI­AN re­sults come as wel­come news af­ter its com­bi­na­tion of Imfinzi and treme­li­mum­ab failed tri­als for head and neck can­cer, and for an­oth­er form of lung can­cer. The study was con­duct­ed on 537 pa­tients re­ceiv­ing first-line treat­ment for non-small cell lung can­cer in over 200 cen­ters, across 22 coun­tries and four con­ti­nents. 

José Basel­ga As­traZeneca

We are en­cour­aged to see more than a third of small cell lung can­cer pa­tients treat­ed with Imfinzi plus chemother­a­py alive at the 18-month land­mark, which is re­mark­able giv­en the ag­gres­sive na­ture of the dis­ease,” José Basel­ga, As­traZeneca’s ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of on­col­o­gy R&D, said in a state­ment. 

Imfinzi, al­ready ap­proved for un­re­sect­ed stage III SCLC, is al­so be­ing test­ed with con­cur­rent chemother­a­py for lim­it­ed-stage SCLC in As­traZeneca’s Phase III ADRI­AT­IC tri­al. Roche an­nounced to­day it will con­duct a Phase I/II tri­al with KAHR med­ical to treat NSCLC pa­tients who are re­frac­to­ry, or re­sis­tant, to check­point in­hibitors. 


Cor­rec­tion: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this ar­ti­cle in­cor­rect­ly iden­ti­fied Mer­ck as Mer­ck KGaA. Ref­er­ences to Mer­ck KGaA have been re­moved. 

Health­care Dis­par­i­ties and Sick­le Cell Dis­ease

In the complicated U.S. healthcare system, navigating a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease can be remarkably challenging for patients and caregivers. When that illness is classified as a rare disease, those challenges can become even more acute. And when that rare disease occurs in a population that experiences health disparities, such as people with sickle cell disease (SCD) who are primarily Black and Latino, challenges can become almost insurmountable.

The End­points 11: They've got mad mon­ey and huge am­bi­tions. It's time to go big or go home

These days, selecting a group of private biotechs for the Endpoints 11 spotlight begins with a sprint to get ahead of IPOs and the M&A teams at Big Pharma. I’ve had a couple of faceplants earlier this year, watching some of the biotechs on my short list choose a quick leap onto Nasdaq or into the arms of a buyer.

Vividion, you would have been a great pick for the Endpoints 11. I’m sorry I missed you.

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Dave Lennon, former president of Novartis Gene Therapies

So what hap­pened with No­var­tis Gene Ther­a­pies? Here's your an­swer

Over the last couple of days it’s become clear that the gene therapy division at Novartis has quietly undergone a major reorganization. We learned on Monday that Dave Lennon, who had pursued a high-profile role as president of the unit with 1,500 people, had left the pharma giant to take over as CEO of a startup.

Like a lot of the majors, Novartis is an open highway for head hunters, or anyone looking to staff a startup. So that was news but not completely unexpected.

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Who are the women su­per­charg­ing bio­phar­ma R&D? Nom­i­nate them for this year's spe­cial re­port

The biotech industry has faced repeated calls to diversify its workforce — and in the last year, those calls got a lot louder. Though women account for just under half of all biotech employees around the world, they occupy very few places in C-suites, and even fewer make it to the helm.

Some companies are listening, according to a recent BIO survey which showed that this year’s companies were 2.5 times more likely to have a diversity and inclusion program compared to last year’s sample. But we still have a long way to go. Women represent just 31% of biotech executives, BIO reported. And those numbers are even more stark for women of color.

FDA au­tho­rizes Pfiz­er's vac­cine boost­er for se­niors, those at high risk for se­vere Covid-19

The Biden administration’s goal of kicking off its booster shot drive for the entire US population this week is not quite going as planned.

First, Pfizer applied for approval of a supplemental application for the booster shots, but since last Friday’s adcomm reviewing them, the plan has devolved into an EUA, which the FDA issued late Thursday evening.

The population that is now eligible for the booster, six months after receiving the first pair of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, also narrowed from what Pfizer applied for (everyone who’s eligible for the initial Pfizer shots) to just those who are 65 or older, or at high-risk of a Covid infection, including health care workers and others with occupational hazards.

Stéphane Bancel, AP Images

Fi­nal analy­sis of US-fund­ed Mod­er­na Covid vac­cine tri­al shows 98% ef­fi­ca­cy against se­vere dis­ease

A final look at the results of the placebo-controlled Moderna trial in the New England Journal of Medicine, published Thursday afternoon, shows how the vaccine continues to prevent Covid-19 and severe cases after more than five months following the second shot.

Of the more than 30,000 enrolled in the trial that ultimately led to the vaccine’s EUA, only two people in the vaccine group got a severe form of the disease, compared to 106 in the placebo group — leading to an efficacy of 98%.

Emma Walmsley, GlaxoSmithKline CEO (Credit: Fang Zhe/Xinhua/Alamy Live News)

The fire un­der Glax­o­SmithK­line's Em­ma Walm­s­ley grows as an­oth­er well-known ac­tivist in­vestor grabs its pitch­fork — re­port

Bluebell Capital Partners, a proxy brawler fresh off a campaign to oust global food giant Danone’s CEO and most of its board of directors, has bought a stake in UK drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline with its eyes trained directly on Emma Walmsley, the Financial Times reported Wednesday.

The London-based hedge fund joins another notorious activist firm in Paul Singer’s Elliott Management, which earlier this year called for a shakeup in leadership at GSK to handle what the company described as a wealth of riches across the drug giant’s portfolio hindered by limited vision from top staff.

FDA+ roundup: Bs­U­FA III ready for show­time, court tells FDA to re-work com­pound­ing plan, new guid­ance up­dates and more

The FDA has now spelled out what exactly will be included in the third iteration of Biosimilar User Fee Act (BsUFA) from 2023 through 2027, which similarly to the prescription drug deal, sets fees that industry has to pay for submitting applications, in exchange for firm timelines that the agency must meet.

This latest deal includes several sweeteners for the biosimilar industry, which has yet to make great strides in the US market, with shorter review timelines for safety labeling updates and updates to add or remove an indication that does not contain efficacy data.

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Joshua Liang, Clover Biopharmaceuticals CEO

With world still in sore need of dos­es, Clover says its Covid-19 vac­cine is 67% ef­fec­tive in Phase III

With concerns about the Delta variant rising and much of the world still in desperate need of vaccine doses, a Chinese biotech announced Wednesday that a new shot has shown positive results in a large trial against Covid-19, including new variants.

Clover Biopharmaceuticals announced Wednesday that its vaccine candidate showed 79% efficacy against the Delta variant in a Phase II/III trial dubbed Spectra, and 67% effective against Covid-19 overall.