Pharma Strategy Blog

Commentary on Pharma & Biotech Oncology / Hematology New Product Development

Posts tagged ‘Genentech’

“RAF inhibitors (vemurafenib and dabrafenib) have profound clinical activity in patients with BRAF-mutant melanoma, but their therapeutic effects are limited by the emergence of drug resistance.”

Solit and Rosen (2014)

For today’s post on Science Fridays, I wanted to take a look at an overview paper, published in Cancer Discovery, from two researchers in the metastatic melanoma field who have been looking at multiple mechanisms of resistance.  It’s an important topic because while we have seen incremental improvements in outcomes for this disease, the 5-year survival rate is still rather poor with only 10–20% of metastatic patients still alive by then.  This is not to disparage the efforts of scientists, clinicians or companies working in this space, far from it, but there is is clearly a need for new therapies, strategies and combinations, given the high unmet medical need that exists.

For as long as anyone can remember, humanity has wondered, “Why do we do things even when we know we should not?”

James Shelley, Caesura Letters

Akrasia is a rather common affliction in Pharma and Biotech.  After all, why do so many companies fall into the deathly trap of running generic catch-all studies in heterogeneous cancers without an oncogenic target or validated biomarker? Or even specific, well defined subsets to improve the homogeneity ratio?  Or perhaps they knowingly underpower a randomized trial for overall survival?

The list goes on…

It’s been quite a roller coaster ride for Hedgehog inhibitors of late.

Infinity Pharmaceuticals Last week, brought negative data as Infinity announced that their phase II trial with saridegib (IPI-926) had been stopped for futility in pancreatic cancer.  This trial sought to determine the impact of the hedgehog in combination with gemcitabine over gemcitabine alone in advanced pancreatic cancer.  Unfortunately, the trial was stopped for futility, meaning the control arm was doing better than the treatment arm.

There’s been quite a flurry of commercial news on the Pharma front this morning, with Amgen buying Micromet (whose leading product is blinatumumab in ALL) and Celgene announcing their acquisition of Avila Therapeutics who have a Bruton Kinase Inhibitor (BTK) AVL-292 in phase IB development for lymphomas, which was all the rage at the recent American Society of Hematology (ASH) meeting last month.

The big news for me today, though, wasn’t the commercial acquisitions but a gem of a paper relating to science and its significance for future cancer treatment.

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Good news this morning as Roche announced that their Hedgehog (Hh) inhibitor licensed from Curis, GDC-0449 (now known as vismodegib), has been submitted to the FDA for the treatment of advanced basal cell carcinoma (BCC) in patients for whom surgery is not appropriate.

The filing is based on phase II data from the ERIVANCE (BCC/SHH4476g) phase II trial that was reported earlier this year at the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) meeting. The pivotal trial was a single arm study with the design based on discussions with the FDA, since there are no approved therapies for this setting. In other words, these are refractory patients with advanced disease.

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Finally, we have a result from the public hearing in Washington DC on whether Avastin is a safe and effective drug in first line treatment of metastatic breast cancer after the Oncology Drugs Advisory Committee (ODAC) voted 6-0 against on all three questions (was Avastin effective, safe and should the indication continue to be upheld).

An overwhelming victory for CDER’s case rather than Genentech/Roche’s.

For those of you wondering whether there was any wriggle room for manoeuvre, take a look at the data for yourselves from the original ODAC meeting last year when the FDA reviewed it.  I put together the response rates and survival curves from the RIBBON1 and AVADO trials at the time, based on the publicly available data on the FDA site for all to see.


The beauty of social media is that sometimes someone shares something monumental before you even pick it up yourself in a journal you’re subscribed to. I love that – it’s a great way to see how others find things with what I call ‘interestingness’.  This morning, John Carroll of Fierce Biotech tweeted something that gave me goosebumps.

What was hot this morning you may all be wondering?

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Quite a few questions have hit my inbox recently from people wanting to know more about Antibody Drug Conjugates (ADCs) and how they work.

They basically consist of three things:

  1. Monoclonal antibody
  2. Linker
  3. Cytotoxic agent

Antibody Drug Conjugate (ADC)

Source: Roche

The goal is to create a new molecule that essentially is greater than the sum of its parts by making it more targeted, like a guided missile against the cancer cells.


Yesterday, Roche/Genentech announced that they have submitted the New Drug Application (NDA) filing for PLX4032 (vemurafenib) in BRAF V600E mutation-positive metastatic melanoma, based on BRIM2 and BRIM3 trials to both the FDA and EMA.

I’ve posted quite a bit on BRAF inhibitors such as vemurafenib on this blog – check out the related posts feature at the bottom if you want to learn more about the history of this class of drugs.

Interestingly, Roche have also submitted the companion diagnostic, cobas 4800 BRAF V600 Mutation Test, which means that oncologists in the community will be able to more easily test patients for the mutation, since these patients are more likely to respond to therapy with BRAF inhibitors such as vemurafenib.


Well, the long awaited decision by the FDA on bevacizumab (Avastin) in breast cancer has finally been published and is probably the least surprising decision by the agency in 2010:

“The Office of New Drugs (OND) recommends withdrawing approval of the breast cancer indication for bevacizumab (Avastin).  This indication was approved on February 22, 2008, under accelerated approval provisions for use in combination with paclitaxel for the treatment of patients who have not received chemotherapy for metastatic HER2-negative breast cancer.

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