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. 

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The panel voted unanimously (16 to 0) to support the company’s positive data presentation — backing an OK for expanding the label to include reducing cardio risk. The vote points Amarin $AMRN down a short path to a formal decision by the FDA, with the odds heavily in its favor. Chances are the rest of the questions about the future of this drug will be hashed out in the label’s small print.

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Federal Trade Commission commissioner Rohit Chopra testifies on Capitol Hill (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

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Like much else that’s going on in Washington these days, the vote among the 5 FTC commissioners split along party lines, with the 3 Republicans voting to clear the way and the 2 Democrats steamed over what they see as a major M&A move that will lessen competition and innovation. And that split has big implications for the M&A side of the business if the Dems take the White House in 2020.

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BeiGene CEO John Oyler at an Endpoints event in Shanghai, October 2018 (Credit: Endpoints News/PharmCube)

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Weeks after Amgen took a $2.7 billion stake in BeiGene, the Beijing-based biotech has secured its first-ever FDA approval for zanubrutinib, a BTK inhibitor, months ahead of schedule.

BeiGene’s drug, branded as Brukinsa, has secured accelerated approval for adult patients with mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) — a typically aggressive, rare, form of blood cancer — who have received at least one prior therapy.

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Mer­ck buys a fledg­ling neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive biotech spawned by an old GSK dis­cov­ery al­liance. What’s up with that?

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Xu’s work laid the foundation for Avalon to launch Calporta, which has been working on finding small molecule agonists of TRPML1 (transient receptor potential cation channel, mucolipin subfamily, member 1) for lysosomal storage disorders. And that pathway, they believe, points to new approaches on major market neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, ALS and Alzheimer’s.

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No­var­tis scores its lat­est FDA OK — this time for a new sick­le cell dis­ease drug picked up in a $665M deal

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