Juno Therapeutics abandons problem leukaemia drug

pharmafile | March 2, 2017 | News story | |   

Juno Therapeutics has finally called time on the development of its CAR-T therapy, JCAR015, after one of the most turbulent clinical trial processes of recent times. The treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia resulted in five deaths that were tied to the therapy, two of the deaths coming after the trial had an initial hold placed upon it.

Juno Therapeutics had emerged as a leading developer of CAR-T therapy, a form of treatment that utilises the immune systems own T-cells to specifically target cancer cells. It was widely expected, before events in the trial, that it would lead the field in CAR-T treatment ahead of competitors Kite Pharma and Novartis.

“We have decided not to move forward with the ROCKET trial or JCAR015 at this time, even though it generated important learnings for us and the immunotherapy field. We remain committed to developing better treatments for patients battling ALL and believe an approach using our defined cell technology is the best platform to pursue,” said Hans Bishop, Juno’s President and Chief Executive Officer, in a statement on the decision.

Choosing to not develop any further JRA015 was an expected development and means that the company has fallen back on developing its second CAR-T treatment, JCAR017, which has received positive results treating diffuse large B cell lymphoma.

The issue for Juno Therapeutics is this sets them behind by a year in the development of its therapy compared to Kite Pharma and Novartis. Only yesterday, Kite Pharma released positive results on its own CAR-T therapy that could see them file with the FDA for the treatment by the end of the year. Novartis is thought to be not far behind and means that Juno Therapeutics could well enter the market as the third treatment.

Ben Hargreaves

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