Tesaro makes its case for a clean sweep with ni­ra­parib - and shares soar again

Lon­nie Moul­der

We al­ready knew go­ing in­to the big ES­MO meet­ing that Tesaro’s PARP in­hibitor ni­ra­parib had demon­strat­ed stel­lar re­sults for a range of ovar­i­an can­cer pa­tients with BR­CA mu­ta­tions. But when in­ves­ti­ga­tors stood up to dis­play the re­sults of their piv­otal study, a full set of da­ta demon­strat­ed a ben­e­fit not on­ly for tu­mors that were pos­i­tive for HRD, an im­por­tant bio­mark­er, but al­so for HRD-neg­a­tive tu­mors.

The ben­e­fit nar­rows pro­gres­sive­ly by that last step, but even at a 3.1-month pro­gres­sion sur­vival ben­e­fit for the HRD-neg­a­tive group in the Phase III — 6.9 months ver­sus 3.8 months — in­ves­ti­ga­tors laid the ground­work for ad­vanc­ing this drug for use with­out a di­ag­nos­tic test de­vel­oped by Myr­i­ad Ge­net­ics.

“Even in the HRD-neg­a­tive com­mu­ni­ty, there’s a sub­stan­tial ben­e­fit,” CEO Lon­nie Moul­der told me in the lead­up to the ES­MO con­fer­ence. And he’s pre­pared to make the case for ni­ra­parib with a full set of “ran­dom­ized, con­trolled da­ta we think is quite pow­er­ful.”

“Our con­clu­sion is that all pa­tients have a ben­e­fit and all pa­tients must be treat­ed,” chief in­ves­ti­ga­tor Man­soor Raza Mirza said at the Copen­hagen meet­ing, ac­cord­ing to Reuters’ re­port.

Their study in the New Eng­land Jour­nal of Med­i­cine adds that one in 5 of those HRD-neg­a­tive pa­tients demon­strat­ed a ben­e­fit of greater than 18 months of pro­gres­sion-free sur­vival, a point Tesaro will be mak­ing with reg­u­la­tors. The over­all sur­vival (OS) re­sults have yet to be de­ter­mined, leav­ing reg­u­la­tors to make their de­ci­sions based on PFS re­sults.

Tesaro’s bull­ish po­si­tion was cheered on by in­vestors Mon­day morn­ing, dri­ving up the biotech’s shares by 21% on the added per­spec­tive. And some an­a­lysts, like Leerink’s Sea­mus Fer­nan­dez, helped fu­el the ral­ly with com­ments like this:

Avastin was ap­proved in com­bi­na­tion with chemother­a­py in plat­inum-re­sis­tant ovar­i­an can­cer based on 3.4 month ben­e­fit (6.8 vs. 3.4 months for chemo alone; HR=0.38; p<0.0001). While there are sev­er­al caveats to this com­par­i­son (Avastin was used in com­bi­na­tion in a treat­ment set­ting for plat­inum-re­sis­tant pa­tients and pro­duced a low­er haz­ard ra­tio with a larg­er n), we be­lieve this demon­strates that the FDA can view a 3+ month im­prove­ment in mPFS as clin­i­cal­ly mean­ing­ful.

Johnathan Lan­cast­er, Myr­i­ad’s chief med­ical of­fi­cer, dis­agreed with Tesaro’s as­sess­ment, telling Bloomberg that the HRD-neg­a­tive PFS rate is not clin­i­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant. He backed that up by not­ing that As­traZeneca’s Lyn­parza, which man­aged to get ap­proved even af­ter a pan­el vot­ed the drug down on weak ear­ly re­sults, was not OK’d for use in BR­CA neg­a­tive pa­tients with a PFS of 3.6 months.

Myr­i­ad Ge­net­ics had this to add in a state­ment to End­points News:

The NO­VA study demon­strat­ed the ef­fi­ca­cy of both the drug and Bio­mark­er. De­spite the su­per sen­si­tive plat­inum re­spon­ders se­lect­ed for the study, my­Choice HRD was able to strat­i­fy based on ben­e­fit. The FDA will need to de­cide whether the 3.1 month ben­e­fit in HRD neg­a­tive pa­tients is suf­fi­cient. This is par­tic­u­lar­ly im­por­tant in the con­text of drugs that have tox­i­c­i­ty in the main­te­nance set­ting where the al­ter­na­tive is no ther­a­py at all.

For pa­tients with non-germline BR­CA mu­ta­tions that were HRD pos­i­tive, the PFS ben­e­fit was much more dis­tinct, a me­di­an 12.9 months ver­sus 3.8 months. The drug was test­ed as a main­te­nance ther­a­py in plat­inum-sen­si­tive, re­cur­rent ovar­i­an can­cer. You can see the full set of da­ta and the dis­cus­sion in the New Eng­land Jour­nal of Med­i­cine.

Re­gard­less of the out­come of the de­bate over HRD sta­tus, Tesaro is lin­ing up for a near term ap­proval that should leave them in a strong mar­ket po­si­tion rel­a­tive to Lyn­parza or Clo­vis On­col­o­gy, which saw its stock price take a hit yes­ter­day over da­ta drawn from a dif­fer­ent set of ovar­i­an can­cer pa­tients. The com­pa­ny has been in­sist­ing that you can’t com­pare stud­ies, but it’s done every day. And as Clo­vis’s stock dropped 18% over the course of Fri­day, it wasn’t far­ing very well.

Pfiz­er, mean­while, plans to ad­vance their ri­val PARP drug ta­la­zoparib, new­ly ac­quired in its $14 bil­lion Medi­va­tion ac­qui­si­tion.

2019 Trin­i­ty Drug In­dex Eval­u­ates Ac­tu­al Com­mer­cial Per­for­mance of Nov­el Drugs Ap­proved in 2016

Fewer Approvals, but Neurology Rivals Oncology and Sees Major Innovations

This report, the fourth in our Trinity Drug Index series, outlines key themes and emerging trends in the industry as we progress towards a new world of targeted and innovative products. It provides a comprehensive evaluation of the performance of novel drugs approved by the FDA in 2016, scoring each on its commercial performance, therapeutic value, and R&D investment (Table 1: Drug ranking – Ratings on a 1-5 scale).

How to cap­i­talise on a lean launch

For start-up biotechnology companies and resource stretched pharmaceutical organisations, launching a novel product can be challenging. Lean teams can make setting a launch strategy and achieving your commercial goals seem like a colossal undertaking, but can these barriers be transformed into opportunities that work to your brand’s advantage?
We spoke to Managing Consultant Frances Hendry to find out how Blue Latitude Health partnered with a fledgling subsidiary of a pharmaceutical organisation to launch an innovative product in a
complex market.
What does the launch environment look like for this product?
FH: We started working on the product at Phase II and now we’re going into Phase III trials. There is a significant unmet need in this disease area, and everyone is excited about the launch. However, the organisation is still evolving and the team is quite small – naturally this causes a little turbulence.

Aymeric Le Chatelier, Ipsen

A $1B-plus drug stum­bles in­to an­oth­er big PhI­II set­back -- this time flunk­ing fu­til­i­ty test -- as FDA hold re­mains in ef­fect for Ipsen

David Meek

At the time Ipsen stepped up last year with more than a billion dollars in cash to buy Clementia and a late-stage program for a rare bone disease that afflicts children, then CEO David Meek was confident that he had put the French biotech on a short path to a mid-2020 launch.

Instead of prepping a launch, though, the company was hit with a hold on the FDA’s concerns that a therapy designed to prevent overgrowth of bone for cases of fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva might actually stunt children’s growth. So they ordered a halt to any treatments for kids 14 and under. Meek left soon after to run a startup in Boston. And today the Paris-based biotech is grappling with the independent monitoring committee’s decision that their Phase III had failed a futility test.

Endpoints News

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Roche's check­point play­er Tecen­triq flops in an­oth­er blad­der can­cer sub­set

Just weeks after Merck’s star checkpoint inhibitor Keytruda secured FDA approval for a subset of bladder cancer patients, Swiss competitor Roche’s Tecentriq has failed in a pivotal bladder cancer study.

The 809-patient trial — IMvigor010 — tested the PD-L1 drug in patients with muscle-invasive urothelial cancer (MIUC) who had undergone surgery, and were at high risk for recurrence.

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Gilead dusts off a failed Ebo­la drug as coro­n­avirus spreads; Ex­elix­is boasts pos­i­tive Ph I/II da­ta

→ Less than a year ago Gilead’s antiviral remdesivir failed to make the cut as investigators considered a raft of potential drugs that could be used against an Ebola outbreak. But it may gain a new mission with the outbreak of the coronavirus in China, which is popping up now around the world.

Gilead put out a statement saying that they’re now in discussions with health officials in the US and China about testing their NUC against the virus. It’s the latest in a growing lineup of biopharma companies that are marshaling R&D forces to see if they can come up with a vaccine or therapy to blunt the spread of the virus, which has now sickened hundreds, killed at least 17 people and led the Chinese government to start quarantining cities.

Alex Karnal (Deerfield)

Deer­field vaults to the top of cell and gene ther­a­py CD­MO game with $1.1B fa­cil­i­ty at Philadel­phi­a's newest bio­phar­ma hub

Back at the beginning of 2015, Deerfield Management co-led a $10 million Series C for a private gene therapy startup, reshaping the company and bringing in new leaders to pave way for an IPO just a year later.

Fast forward four more years and the startup, AveXis, is now a subsidiary of Novartis marketing the second-ever gene therapy to be approved in the US.

For its part, Deerfield has also grown more comfortable and ambitious about the nascent field. And the investment firm is now putting down its biggest bet yet: a $1.1 billion contract development and manufacturing facility to produce everything one needs for cell and gene therapy — faster and better than how it’s currently done.

Tri­fec­ta of sick­le cell dis­ease ther­a­pies ex­tend life ex­pectan­cy, but are not cost-ef­fec­tive — ICER

Different therapeutic traits brandished by the three approved therapies for sickle cell disease all extend life expectancy, but their impact on quality of life is uncertain and their long-term cost-effectiveness is not up to scratch according to the thresholds considered reasonable by ICER, the non-profit concluded in a draft guidance report on Thursday.

Sickle cell disease (SCD), which encompasses a group of inherited red blood cell disorders that typically afflict those of African ancestry, impacts hemoglobin — and is characterized by episodes of searing pain as well as organ damage.

UP­DAT­ED: Eli Lil­ly’s $1.6B can­cer drug failed to spark even the slight­est pos­i­tive gain for pa­tients in its 1st PhI­II

Eli Lilly had high hopes for its pegylated IL-10 drug pegilodecakin when it bought Armo last year for $1.6 billion in cash. But after reporting a few months ago that it had failed a Phase III in pancreatic cancer, without the data, its likely value has plunged. And now we’re getting some exact data that underscore just how little positive effect it had.

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UP­DAT­ED: FDA’s golodirsen CRL: Sarep­ta’s Duchenne drugs are dan­ger­ous to pa­tients, of­fer­ing on­ly a small ben­e­fit. And where's that con­fir­ma­to­ry tri­al?

Back last summer, Sarepta CEO Doug Ingram told Duchenne MD families and investors that the FDA’s shock rejection of their second Duchenne MD drug golodirsen was due to some concerns regulators raised about the risk of infection and the possibility of kidney toxicity. But when pressed to release the letter for all to see, he declined, according to a report from BioPharmaDive, saying that kind of move “might not look like we’re being as respectful as we’d like to be.”

He went on to assure everyone that he hadn’t misrepresented the CRL.

But Ingram’s public remarks didn’t include everything in the letter, which — following the FDA’s surprise about-face and unexplained approval — has now been posted on the FDA’s website and broadly circulated on Twitter early Wednesday.

The CRL raises plenty of fresh questions about why the FDA abruptly decided to reverse itself and hand out an OK for a drug a senior regulator at the FDA believed — 5 months ago, when he wrote the letter — is dangerous to patients. It also puts the spotlight back on Sarepta $SRPT, which failed to launch a confirmatory study of eteplirsen, which was only approved after a heated internal controversy at the FDA. Ellis Unger, director of CDER’s Office of Drug Evaluation I, notes that study could have clarified quite a lot about the benefit and risks associated with their drugs — which can cost as much as a million dollars per patient per year, depending on weight.

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