Seattle Genetics, Millennium Report Groundbreaking Results With Drug for Hodgkin’s

12/5/10Follow @xconomy

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with chemotherapy when patients are newly diagnosed with Hodgkin’s. There’s another study underway in which doctors are looking to see if giving brentuximab vedotin after a stem cell transplant helps prevent relapse or prolong the time before relapse.

And while Hodgkin’s is rare, there’s a biological rationale to test this product in many more diseases. Seattle Genetics chose Hodgkin’s in the first place because it is a malignancy in which the CD30 protein is present in abundance on the surface of cells, making it a good target. But CD30 is found on other cancers, too. Back in October, Seattle Genetics reported even better results (an 86 percent overall response rate among patients) in anaplastic large cell lymphoma, for instance. More detailed results on the Seattle Genetics drug, and its ability to generate at least partial remissions in 50 out of 58 patients studied, are expected to be presented at the ASH meeting at 7:30 am Eastern on Tuesday.

Siegall said his scientific team is hard at work studying the pathology of many rare cancers, such as cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, peripheral T-cell lymphoma, certain B-cell lymphomas, and sarcomas, to see whether his new drug has potential to make an impact against a wider array of these ailments.

“We believe this data suggests there is broad potential for brentuximab vedotin,” Siegall says.

Seattle Genetics will not be the only ones on the lookout for any and all cases of cancer that appears related to CD30. Hospitals will now start examining individual tumor samples in their pathology labs for any evidence of abundant CD30 markers, which could justify use of the new drug once it becomes available, Chen says. “There’s now a real reason to look for it,” Chen says. “I think you’re going to see more clinicians asking pathologists to look for it.”

The company, of course, is racing to get ready for this surge in demand, which means it needs to build up capability in sales, marketing and manufacturing that it never needed before. Key strategic questions—like how to set the price, and how to persuade insurers to pay for it—will have to be answered in the coming year.

By the end of 2011, Seattle Genetics expects to have built a commercial team of about 110 people, as part of an overall company staff that could grow to 475-500 employees over the next 12 months, Siegall says. The mission will be to lay out a game plan for brentuximab, and beyond, Siegall says.

“I believe this product is phenomenal and it has a lot of legs to it,” Siegall says. “Rituxan has had a very big impact on patients with B-cell lymphomas. We think we can have that kind of impact on Hodgkin’s and certain T-cell lymphomas.”

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