AbbVie, J&J's Imbruvica falls short in pancreatic cancer
- Combining AbbVie and Johnson & Johnson's Imbruvica with chemotherapy didn't significantly improve progression-free or overall survival in patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer when compared to a common chemo regimen, results from the Phase 3 RESOLVE study showed.
- Danelle James, head of clinical science at AbbVie's Pharmacyclics unit, said "we continue to evaluate the potential of Imbruvica as a cancer treatment alone or in combination for a variety of cancer types."
- Imbruvica already holds approvals for five blood cancers and chronic graft-versus-host disease. J&J, which co-markets the drug with AbbVie, recorded Imbruvica sales of $2.6 billion for 2018, a year-over-year increase of nearly 40%. AbbVie has not yet reported full-year financial results.
Imbruvica (ibrutinib) isn't the only successful oncology drug to have trouble treating pancreatic cancer. The estimated five-year survival for patients with pancreatic cancer is 8.5%, and less than 5% for those with metastatic disease. Overall median survival from diagnosis of metastatic pancreatic cancer is less than a year.
Despite advances in cancer treatment overall, combination studies over four decades have shown little in the way of real advances in survival benefit for pancreatic cancer patients over gemcitabine alone, the standard-of-care for metastatic disease.
Companies are still trying to develop new therapies, however. In 2018, Merck & Co. invested $125 million in Moderna Therapeutics, expanding a partnership for a vaccine targeting four common mutations of the KRAS oncogene. Around 90% of pancreatic cancers have these mutations.
FibroGen, meanwhile, is developing a CTGF antibody called pamrevlumab, with the aim to make advanced and unresectable cancer surgically resectable.
A Phase 1/2 trial of pamrevlumab in combination with chemotherapy in patients with locally advanced disease showed that an increased proportion of patients were eligible for resection compared with chemotherapy alone. Resected patients had an increased median survival compared with unresected patients.
Elsewhere, Halozyme's PEGPH20 is in Phase 3 studies for patients with certain advanced pancreatic cancers. Additionally, Boston Biomedical advanced an experimental drug into late-stage testing, while the PARP inhibitors olaparib and rucaparib have shown some potential in pancreatic cancer.
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