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ASCO24: An early look at cancer drug study results

BioPharma Dive is testing out a new format rounding up smaller updates from around the industry. Have thoughts on what could make this type of story better? Drop us a line!

Today, we’re interrupting our usual rundown of industry news to highlight notable clinical trial updates ahead of next week’s American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting. On Thursday, conference organizers released abstracts, or snapshots, of most of the studies set to be presented at the meeting, which will be held in Chicago from May 31 to June 4.

Note: So-called late-breaking abstracts, which often feature particularly consequential trial findings, aren’t available until the day the relevant studies are presented. This year, that group includes anticipated data on Novartis’ therapy Scemblix in leukemia, GSK’s Blenrep in multiple myeloma and AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo’s Enhertu treatment in breast cancer.

Abstract #9507: Analysts have closely tracked a dual-targeting antibody drug that Immunocore is developing for a type of skin cancer called cutaneous melanoma. Trial results included in an ASCO abstract showed that, among 31 evaluable people who previously received immunotherapy, Immunocore’s drug led to partial tumor responses in four, or 13%. Including study participants whose disease was considered stable, the so-called clinical benefit rate was 61%. Though slightly below analysts’ expectations, the data are roughly similar to the results for Bristol Myers Squibb’s Odualag in a comparable patient population. Immuncore recently began a Phase 3 trial of its drug, called brenetafusp. — Ned Pagliarulo

Abstracts #5502, 9506: Drugmakers have hoped that targeting an immune cell protein called TIGIT could build on the success seen with “checkpoint” inhibitors like Merck & Co.’s Keytruda and Bristol Myers Squibb’s Opdivo. But trial results to date have been mixed and new data included in ASCO abstracts Thursday probably won’t settle any debates. On one hand, Phase 2 trial findings for Merck’s TIGIT-targeting drug vibostolimab coformulated with Keytruda shrank or eliminated tumors in a larger share of women with a type of endometrial cancer than Keytruda alone. On the other, data from a Phase 1/2 trial of Keytruda, vibostolimab and a third experimental immunotherapy called quavonlimab in advanced melanoma patients weren’t good enough for the Merck to continue enrolling patients. — Jonathan Gardner

Abstract #3508: An experimental cocktail of six drugs substantially extended survival and delayed tumor growth, compared to a standard therapy, in people with previously treated metastatic colon cancer, according to an ASCO abstract. The regimen includes two drugs developed by Arcus Biosciences: etrumadenant, a so-called adenosine receptor antagonist, and zimberelimab, a checkpoint inhibitor. Median overall survival among the 75 patients randomized to the cocktail was 19.7 months, versus 9.5 months for the 37 given Stivarga in the Phase 1b/2 study. Arcus is closely partnered with Gilead Sciences, although their focus has been on developing zimberelimab and another immunotherapy. — Ned Pagliarulo

Abstract #5010: Johnson & Johnson is one of many companies now exploring radiopharmaceuticals, which deliver radiation directly to a tumor. Its first chance to break into the field could be JNJ-6420, a drug that executives already billed as a potential future blockbuster. J&J aims to show the drug can slow tumor progression in men whose prostate cancer has progressed after hormone therapies. Early-stage study results disclosed in an abstract show the company may need to manage safety concerns. While 46% of men treated with a select drug dose had a 50% decrease in a marker associated with improved survival, 61% experienced an adverse event graded as severe or medically significant. Four of the 67 patients who received J&J’s drug overall in the study died from adverse events. — Jonathan Gardner

Abstract #6502: Anyone looking for updated trial results on MorphoSys’ myelofibrosis drug pelabresib will have to wait for ASCO itself, as an abstract for the biotechnology company’s MANIFEST-2 study only includes previously presented data. The drug is at the center of Novartispending $2.9 billion acquisition of MorphoSys, but there are questions about its safety after a Stat report highlighted multiple cases of acute myeloid leukemia developing in pelabresib-treated patients. — Ned Pagliarulo