Onyx, Millennium, Ariad: Firms to Watch at Hematology Meeting

12/7/12Follow @cathyarnst

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have led to cure rates as high as 90 percent for chronic myeloid leukemia and Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and a tripling of survival rates for myeloma, according to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. [An earlier version of this paragraph mistakenly said that Gleevec is a Roche drug. Xconomy regrets the error.]

“The patient population is so heterogenous” in blood cancers, Dixie Esseltine, vice president of global medical affairs for Millennium, told me. “We understand so much now at the molecular level and more so in the next ten years, that we are going to be able to have a much more refined approach to treatment, taking into account both the characteristics of their cancer and the side effects they might experience.”

Those side effects are one reason that Cambridge, MA, based-Millennium, a subsidiary of Takeda of Japan, is testing an oral proteasome inhibitor called MLN9708—often referred to in the myeloma community as “Velcade in a pill.” Velcade is delivered by injection and can cause nerve damage in some patients. Consequently, several companies, including Onyx, are developing oral proteasome inhibitors, but Millennium is furthest along, and will be presenting data from a Phase I/II study at ASH.

Shaji Kumar, lead investigator of the trial and a professor at the Mayo Clinic, told me that his goal with targeted therapies going forward is to make them both safer and more convenient for patients. Next year Millennium will test MLN9708 in Phase II and Phase III studies in combination with other types of myeloma therapies already approved.

Other drugs to watch at ASH:

—Onyx will be presenting very early clinical trial data on its own oral proteasome inhibitor, ONX 0912, as well as a number of studies evaluating the safety and efficacy of carfilzomib in various patient settings. Those results are important because … Next Page »

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  • Finbar

    Really Gleevec from Roche? Novartis will be surprised to learn that

  • Hem/Onc pharm

    The following statement in this article is incorrect: “The rapid progress in blood cancer therapies started with Roche’s breakthrough imatinib (Gleevec), approved in 2001 for chronic myeloid leukemia.” The company responsible is NOVARTIS.

  • Catherine Arnst

    I’m so sorry about the error, and I’ve corrected it in the story. Came from a faulty memory–thanks for catching it.