It came as no big surprise this morning to hear that Exelixis and BMS have announced they are terminating their agreement over XL184. The compound is being tested in medullary thyroid cancer, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). This is a small molecule that inhibits several targets, namely MET, RET and VEGFR2.
According to Exelixis, the CEO stated in their press release:
"We certainly understand BMS' need to make pipeline and prioritization decisions."
It looks as if they couldn't agree on the priorities for the clinical development, which would be a little odd given the $240M invested in XL184 and XL281 in 2008, with the same indications planned.
It could also be a question of risk management for several reasons:
- Thyroid cancer is slow growing and thus development times will be relatively long, lung cancer is notoriously difficult to crack, as is GBM.
- BMS also have another VEGF inhibitor in late stage development called brivanib (BMS582664), which is in phase III and inhibits both VEGFR2 and FGFR. This compound is being tested in a number of indications, including liver and colon cancers.
Recent BMS analyst meetings from have focused on brivanib as one of the promising new oncology agents in the pipeline, so my suspicion is that they probably decided they only needed one VEGF inhibitor and killed the Exelixis agent rather than their own homegrown one. These things happen all the time. Sometimes you develop several molecules in the hope that one looks more promising in trials.
A few years ago, I remember reading about an incredibly brave and strong patient in one of the early brivanib trials, for advanced cancer. In this case, the feisty young lady had a non-differentiated spindle cell sarcoma and blogged about the encouraging impact of her new treatment:
"My Scans came back with wonderful results. The Brivanib pills are working! My tumors are stable and haven't grown since my last scan! One tumor in my lymph node has actually died! There is no blood flow to the tumor! This is the best news I could get. My doctor is so happy with these results.
I will be on the pills for 12 weeks. After that I will be given either a Placebo or continue on the pills. Because it is a trial it's a 50, 50 shot that I could get the Placebo. Booooo! I will know right away by how I am feeling. The reaction happens within 15 minutes after I take the pills. I am a walking zombie. If I do get the Placebo, I can then go back on the trial."
You can follow her incredible journey back to health here; it's an inspiration to us all.
Thankfully, she's still blogging 2 years later, a testament to her resolve and ability to fight the disease. Long may she continue! Not everyone who gets cancer is elderly, often many people are diagnosed in their teens, twenties and thirties too.
I don't know about you, but I love happy stories and hope to be following her blog for a very long time.