The Readout Damian Garde

Mirati unveils its KRAS data at last

A thing smart people often say is that it’s foolish to make comparisons between clinical trials. And yet, a thing smart people often do is make comparisons between clinical trials.

With that in mind, yesterday the world finally got a look a cancer drug from Mirati Therapeutics, one whose promise gave the company a $3 billion valuation despite a total absence of any published data. That dollar figure was due mostly to Amgen, whose similar drug showed unprecedented results in lung cancer, and thus the conversation around Mirati indulged in the sin of cross-trial comparison.

As STAT’s Adam Feuerstein reports, Mirati’s drug was tested on fewer patients than Amgen’s, but the early returns look positive. Three of six lung cancer patients and one of four patients with colon cancer saw their tumors respond. That likely means Mirati is still competitive with Amgen, albeit with the major caveat that we’ll need to see lots more data before knowing whether either drug will actually become a product.

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What’s going on inside Biogen?

When Ted Whitford read last week’s news that Biogen was reviving an Alzheimer’s disease treatment once thought hopeless, he thought back to 2013.

Back then, Whitford worked at Biogen, which was deeply invested in a potential treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. When that drug, dexpramipexole, proved no better than placebo, it was devastating for employees like Whitford, to say nothing of the many patients given hope by its earlier promise. What Whitford remembers with pride, however, was Biogen’s promise not to mine the data for a flimsy excuse to keep dexpramipexole alive, a decision made out of sense of responsibility to patients and their families.

The hope, Whitford writes in STAT, is that Biogen’s recent move in Alzheimer’s is truly based on scientific promise and not a reversal of its principled stand in ALS.

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Biotech rainmaker David Hung is back

Last we heard from serial entrepreneur David Hung, he was explaining why he’d removed his previous employer from his LinkedIn profile. This week the storied biotech executive, who most famously sold Medivation for about $14 billion, has returned with a big idea, a lot of dollars, and little in the way of disclosed details.

Hung’s new company is called Nuvation Bio, and it has raised $275 million to fund its work. However, as STAT’s Kate Sheridan reports, that work is almost entirely a mystery. The company has “seven mechanistically distinct” ideas, as one investor put it, and each of them is expected to produce multiple potential drugs. 

As for what those drugs might treat, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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The immunotherapy story got more complicated

A few years ago, at the dawn of cancer immunotherapy, it looked like the future of oncology would be mixing and matching novel agents to create cocktails that would redefine the standard care. That’s not quite how things turned out, of course, and at least in lung cancer, the current go-to is Merck’s Keytruda backed with old-fashioned chemotherapy.

But the story could yet change, as STAT’s Matthew Herper reports. Yesterday, AstraZeneca reported that a combination of two immunotherapies — Imfinzi and the investigational tremelimumab — beat placebo at slowing the progression of late-stage lung cancer. Last week, Bristol-Myers Squibb reported similar findings with its own immunotherapy drugs, suggesting that Merck’s dominance in the field might not be guaranteed.

It’s early days yet, as neither AstraZeneca nor Bristol-Myers have presented full data at a scientific meeting. But the top-line results bring up the question of whether the conventional wisdom in oncology might change yet again.

Read more.

More reads

  • Will FDA panel say a drug to prevent premature birth can stay available? (STAT Plus)
  • Is CRISPR the next antibiotic? (New York Times)
  • PixarBio CEO found guilty in stock fraud case. (Law360)
  • Realizing the promise of prescription digital therapeutics. (STAT)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Tuesday, October 29, 2019


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