AstraZeneca drops BCMA drug after seeing early clinical data

Pascal Soriot
AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot (AstraZeneca)

AstraZeneca has stopped (PDF) development of its anti-BCMA antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) in multiple myeloma. The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker was set to take MEDI2228 into phase 2 this year but has opted against forging ahead in the congested BCMA space. 

MEDI2228 is a similar drug to GlaxoSmithKline’s Blenrep, which became the first anti-BCMA therapy to win FDA approval last year. Despite the head start in BCMA, the commercial prospects for Blenrep are uncertain given the presence of well-established incumbents in multiple myeloma and a wave of clinical-stage drugs against the hot target.

AstraZeneca wagered MEDI2228 could come from behind to carve out a piece of the market in 2018 when it moved the ADC into phase 1. Last year, AstraZeneca reported a 61% objective response rate at the maximum tolerated dose and no cases of the keratopathy that affects some Blenrep patients, although it was associated with other adverse events.

Having highlighted MEDI2228 as a cancer drug to watch in its quarterly presentations last year, AstraZeneca has now opted against taking the candidate forward. AstraZeneca cited “safety/efficacy” as the reason for the discontinuation.

The Big Pharma company disclosed the removal of MEDI2228 from its pipeline as part of a first-quarter update that featured a clutch of other changes, including the elimination of two phase 2 projects.

AstraZeneca has dropped MEDI6012 from the pipeline. The action follows the completion of a phase 2 clinical trial of the recombinant human lecithin-cholesterol acyltransferase in adults with acute ST segment elevation myocardial infarction. MEDI6012 was designed to drive the removal of cholesterol and stabilization of vulnerable plaques but got dropped in phase 2 for safety or efficacy reasons.

The other phase 2 project removed from the pipeline is a study of the oral ATR kinase inhibitor ceralasertib in combination with Lynparza. AstraZeneca also pulled a phase 1 project to test ceralasertib and the BTK inhibitor Calquence. Other ceralasertib studies are continuing.

AstraZeneca’s other phase 1 removal was foreshadowed by updates to Studies of the inhaled PI3Kgd inhibitor AZD8154 in asthma were withdrawn and terminated in response to preclinical toxicology findings late last year. AstraZeneca followed up by removing the drug from its pipeline as part of the first quarter update.