BMS skin cancer vaccine hits phase III target

pharmafile | March 23, 2011 | News story | Research and Development BMS, Bristol-Myers Squibb, advanced inoperable skin cancer, advanced melanoma, cancer drugs, cancer vaccine, ipilimumab 

Bristol Myers Squibb’s cancer vaccine ipilimumab has increased overall survival in advanced melanoma patients.

The therapy was being tested as a first line treatment for advanced, inoperable skin cancer and met its primary endpoint of increasing overall survival, the gold standard of oncology studies.

Ipilimumab is a highly novel cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen 4 (CTLA-4) immune therapy directed against T-cells.

Cancer vaccines could be the new way forward for oncology drugs as they ‘teach’ the body how to attack cancer cells and ipilimumab is the only drug of its kind to target melanoma.

Melanoma is a particularly aggressive form of cancer and patients have few options outside chemotherapy or palliative care.

The 024 trial compared ipilimumab in combination with dacarbazine chemotherapy and found that the drug increased overall survival when compared to dacarbazine alone.

The FDA is currently evaluating ipilimumab in previously treated late-stage skin cancer and is set to make a decision of it by 26 March.

The drug was accepted for a fast-track review in 2010, with an initial date of late December suggested, but this was delayed after the US regulator asked for more information on the drug.

The drug is also filed with a series of global regulatory bodies, including Europe’s EMA, with decisions expected later this year.

BMS said it plans to submit further data on its 024 trial at the ASCO cancer congress in June later this year.

Growing melanoma market

There are an estimated 40,000 deaths worldwide from melanoma, with the number of cases in developed countries predicted to double, from 138,000 a year to 227,000 by 2019.

The high rates of skin cancer also makes it a potentially lucrative market for pharma.

Roche is developing RG7204 as a first line treatment for advanced BRAF V600 melanoma, with its most recent phase III trial extending progression-free survival.

GlaxoSmithKline has also begun late-stage trials of two new drugs for advanced or metastatic melanoma patients who are also expressing the BRAF V600 mutation.

Ipilimumab could steal a march over its rivals as it is the therapy to so far show an increase in overall survival in late stage trials as well as the most advanced candidate in the field.

Ben Adams

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