AbbVie, Roche nab FDA breakthrough designation for top leukemia prospect
- Venetoclax is in development by Roche and AbbVie for treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) for patients with the 17p deletion genetic mutation.
- Roughly 3% to 10% of all first-line CLL patients have the 17p deletion.
- Early data has shown that venetoclax combined with Rituxan results in an 88% response rate and remissions in advanced CLL patients.
One reason that the medical community is so excited about venetoclax is that there is evidence that CLL does not recur as soon as therapy is stopped. Venetoclax works by inhibiting a protein, BCL-2, which prevents apoptosis.
AbbVie is putting a lot of time and money into developing this drug, and recently spent $21 billion to acquire Pharmacyclics (which makes the blood cancer blockbuster Imbruvica) to bolster its effort. While AbbVie is earning much of its revenues from Humira, the advent of a strong blood cancer franchise bodes well for its efforts to diversify. The company's hope is that the experimental venetoclax, combined with Imbruvica, will allow it to nab a greater share of the blood cancer market.