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The Readout Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

Happy Monday. Reminder that it's not too late to sign up for our Wednesday event, "The ESMO Recap, Live!" 

Immunomedics drug impresses with new data

Well, now we know why Gilead Sciences ponied up the $21 billion to acquire Immunomedics this month. Clinical data on the company’s cancer drug, Trodelvy, were released over the weekend at ESMO and were clearly promising, STAT’s Adam Feuerstein writes. The results exceeded expectations, and suggest the Immunomedics therapy could grow into a multibillion-dollar drug. 

Trodelvy, which was approved in April for triple-negative breast cancer, showed an overall tumor response rate of 27% in metastatic bladder cancer — among volunteers who had failed both chemotherapy and immunotherapy. On top of that, 5% of trial participants saw remission. Patients in the study showed progression-free survival of 5.4 months.

Even more indicative of the drug’s potential commercial success: Trodelvy reduced the risk of death by 52% in patients with triple-negative breast cancer compared to chemotherapy. 

Read more.

How ‘Trump cards’ undid a drug pricing deal

The Trump administration was on the cusp of finalizing a deal that could have helped lower drug prices. The plan involved drug makers spending $150 billion to help reduce consumer out-of-pocket costs — and cover the copays of Medicare beneficiaries. But the agreement collapsed, the New York Times reports, because of the White House’s insistence on doling out what were casually dubbed “Trump cards.”  

The vouchers were meant to be $100 cash cards that would be mailed to seniors before November. White House officials insisted they wouldn’t have put Trump’s name on the cards, but the drug industry still balked — worrying this would be perceived as a last-ditch political effort to get Trump reelected.

“We could not agree to the administration’s plan to issue one-time savings cards right before a presidential election,” a PhRMA rep told the NYT. “One-time savings cards will neither provide lasting help, nor advance the fundamental reforms necessary to help seniors better afford their medicines.” 

Genentech Covid-19 trial both diverse and effective

A Genentech rheumatoid arthritis drug helped temper the severity of pneumonia in people with Covid-19, new Phase 3 data show. Patients who received Actemra, or tocilizumab, in addition to standard care, were 44% less likely to be placed on a ventilator or die, the company said. About 12% of volunteers in the Actemra arm needed a mechanical ventilator or died, compared to about 19% in the placebo arm. 

One noteworthy aspect of this trial: About 85% of the 389 participants in the trial were Hispanic, Black, or Native American. These minorities have historically been underrepresented in trials, but are disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

A spate of combination approaches to kidney cancer

A combination therapy from Bristol Myers Squibb and Exelixis could help extend the lives of patients with kidney cancer compared to an older medicine, new data from ESMO show — but it’s not the only next-gen treatment option that shows this sort of efficacy.

Opdivo, the immunotherapy from BMS, and Cabometyx, a targeted cancer drug, reduced the risk of death by 40% in a Phase 3 trial as compared to Sutent, an old Pfizer drug for kidney cancer, STAT’s Adam Feuerstein writes. It also reduced the risk of disease progression by 49% compared to the older drug. 

Read more.

More reads

  • If donating a kidney to a stranger is ethical and allowable, so should taking part in a Covid-19 challenge trial. (STAT)
  • Amgen’s KRAS-blocking cancer drug shows durable responses, with tempered expectations. (STAT)
  • Agenus sees light at the end of the tunnel at last. (Evaluate

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Damian

Monday, September 21, 2020

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