Roche’s Tecentriq scores again on a pivotal frontline lung cancer trial, positioning them against Merck, Bristol-Myers

Roche $RHHBY nailed some badly needed success in its late-stage campaign to build a market for its PD-L1 drug Tecentriq today, posting a win for its Phase III IMpower130 combination study on both overall survival as well as progression-free survival for a key group of lung cancer patients.

Daniel O’Day

Combined with chemo and Abraxane, investigators say that the Tecentriq combo significantly extended the lives of patients in the frontline setting for advanced non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer. We won’t get to see data until a future conference, but IMpower130 has been widely viewed as critical to Roche’s plans in the oncology field, where the pharma giant has been watching Merck $MRK and Bristol-Myers Squibb make blockbuster advances.

Roche has been working hard to gain ground in frontline lung cancer, where Merck has held sway with impressive trial results. In discussions with analysts, Roche chief Daniel O’Day has sounded a bullish note for its chances, saying the trial data “will dimensionalize the first-line lung cancer space in 2018.”

The score here also helps a badly bruised Celgene, which has been hammered by failures and reversals at a critical point in its history.

Sandra Horning

Bristol-Myers Squibb $BMY, meanwhile, is in danger of losing its crown as the top earner among the PD-1/L1 leaders, as they’ve encountered some stiff headwinds for their case on a first-line strategy for lung cancer.

Roche’s big Genentech group has now reported three positive pivotals on Tecentriq, but they’ve also recorded several setbacks along the way, including a failure for the recent readout on their checkpoint combined with Exelixis’ Cotellic for colorectal cancer.

We’ll be at ASCO this weekend updating the trial data for the top cancer drugs.

Roche’s Sandra Horning reported: “We will share these results with global health authorities with the goal of bringing this potential treatment option to people with this disease.”

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Sr. Manager, Regulatory Affairs, CMC
CytomX Therapeutics San Francisco, CA
Marketing Associate - Demand Generation
Catalytic Data Science Charleston, SC
Associate Principal, Life Sciences Partnerships
Flatiron Health New York City or San Francisco

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