Amgen ($AMGN) made a huge bet on OncoVex in January with the buyout of the drug's Woburn, MA-based developer, BioVex, in a deal worth up to $1 billion. Later this year Amgen expects to see primary outcome data from a Phase III trial of the drug in patients with advanced melanoma, according to ClinicalTrials.gov. The company can only hope that the trial yields results as impressive as those from a small mid-stage trial in patients with the deadly skin cancer.
OncoVex attacks tumors in two ways. It features a modified cold sore virus that replicates inside solid tumors, causing cancer cells to die. Secondly, the drug prompts the immune system to take out cancer cells. In May 2009, BioVex impressed with Phase II data on the drug in melanoma patients, showing that of 13 patients who had significant responses to the treatment, nine had signs of the cancer completely wiped out.
Amgen is eying multiple markets for OncoVex, a late-stage trial for which is now recruiting patients with head and neck cancers. The drug has also shown potential to treat patients with breast and pancreatic cancers.