Life has been very busy on the consulting front so I’m finally catching up on my news reading and what hot’s in the oncology space.  November is lung cancer month so it is apt that we kick off the Pharma Strategy Blog this month with some interesting news on that topic.

One thing that jumps out that may well impact things for many people, including the probably rather relieved insurers, came from results eagerly anticipated after the recent data presented at the World Lung Congress was not yet fully mature.

Gracelogo There was an excellent post from Dr Pennell on the GRACE cancer website, which is one of my favourite cancer sites with commentary from practising physicians and a community debate where you can ask questions.  Great concept.  It’s a non-profit venture established by the dynamic Dr Jack West and well worth supporting if you have an interest in cancer.

The post refers to a really interesting snippet of news that has much relevance in the treatment lung cancer:

“On October 15th there was a press release that, as far as I can tell, went almost entirely unnoticed. News outlets reported that Roche (owner of Genentech, the maker of Avastin (bevacizumab)) reported
to OSI Pharmaceuticals (the maker of Tarceva (erlotinib)) the final
overall survival results from the ATLAS trial.”

What’s even more interesting is that neither Roche/Genentech or OSI Pharma have made an official announcement about the supposed results on their sites so far (as of 11/2), which according to CNBC was not positive for the combination.  It’s unclear whether this is truth or rumour from the CNBC snippet but Dr Pennell did say that he had confirmed it with an OSI contact.  In some ways, if true, this is not really a surprise as there was much debate about early versus late maintenance therapy with several drugs at the recent ASCO meeting, previously discussed on this blog here and the ATLAS trial design here.

Dr Nasser Hanna was quite scathing in his ASCO discussion of the lung cancer oral session about early vs. delayed TKI therapy, arguing that waiting 3 months or so probably gave patients the chance to recover from first line chemotherapy, among other things.

Dr Pennell sensibly concluded that:

“My guess is that this should be enough to say that the combination of Tarceva and Avastin probably won’t achieve regulatory approval in the maintenance setting.”

I’m inclined to agree with him, but we’ll have to wait and see.

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