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Lilly suffers late-stage cancer blow

Published on 10/09/12 at 10:35am
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Eli Lilly suffered a blow to its oncology programme when a new combination treatment failed to improve overall survival in lung cancer patients.

The Phase III POINTBREAK study put Lilly’s big-selling Alimta (pemetrexed dosdium) together with Roche’s own blockbuster Avastin (bevacizumab) to treat nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Alimta with cisplatin chemotherapy is a standard treatment for NSCLC, bringing in $2.5 billion in sales last year, and this trial was supposed to show how its reach could be expanded further.

But the results were poor with no improvement in overall survival.

“Phase II results with this combination were promising and we were hoping to demonstrate an improvement in survival for nonsquamous NSCLC patients, so we are disappointed with the results of this trial,” admitted Allen Melemed, senior medical director with Lilly Oncology.

Patients in the Alimta arm were randomised to receive Alimta/Avastin and carboplatin induction followed by Alimta plus Avastin maintenance.

This was compared to the combination of common chemotherapy drug paclitaxel with Avastin and carboplatin followed by Avastin maintenance (the paclitaxel arm).

Median overall survival for the Alimta arm was 12.6 months versus 13.4 months for patients on the paclitaxel arm.

Data from the study, presented at the Chicago Multidisciplinary Symposium in Thoracic Oncology, did show the combination met one of POINTBREAK’s secondary endpoints.

Progression-free survival was 6.0 months in the Alimta arm and only 5.6 months for patients in the paclitaxel arm - but this will not have lifted the gloom for Lilly.

Last month the manufacturer announced it was abandoning development of pomaglumetad methionil, an experimental treatment for schizophrenia - and reported that its Alzheimer’s candidate solanezumab failed in two key Phase III trials.

Adam Hill

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