Eli Lilly cuts 3 cancer drugs amid Q4 clear-out

Lilly
(Eli Lilly/LinkedIn)

It’s that time of year when Big Pharmas are reporting revenues and zeroing in on the pipeline updates they want you to know about, but as so often is the case, is being very quiet about any negative news.

Luckily, the eagle-cynics that are FierceBiotech editors are scrolling through hundreds of pages of presentations, financial results and listening in on (increasingly compliance over communication) webcasts, to dig out what they have axed and hope you wouldn’t notice.

It was Roche’s turn this morning, and now it’s Lilly’s: At the bottom of page 17 of its financial presentation, released as part of its full-year/Q4 results, are three experimental drugs stuck at the bottom of table with a big red arrow pointing down: Translation, they’ve been cut.

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These drugs were all focused on cancer, and are: an IDO inhibitor in phase 1 (which as a class has seen multiple failures and setbacks in trials in recent years, so not a major surprise here), as well as another phase 1 attempt in the form of a TIM-3 MAB (T-cell immunoglobulin mucin-3 monoclonal antibody), which are also being tested in early trials by the likes of Novartis, Tesaro/GSK and Incyte, with most combining with checkpoint inhibitors.

RELATED: Eli Lilly to shutter neuroscience R&D center next year

The most advanced drug to receive the big red downward arrow was a midstage TGF-beta R1 kinase inhibitor. TGF-β plays an important role in tumorigenesis and contributes to the hallmarks of cancer, including tumor proliferation, invasion and metastasis, inflammation, angiogenesis, and escape of immune surveillance.

This drug is galunisertib (although the drug names have not been mentioned in the presentation), and it is no longer listed in their oncology pipeline. Galunisertib had been in a trial for both lung and liver cancers, including a combo test starting in 2015 with Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Opdivo.

The Big Pharma confirmed to FierceBiotech that it was being axed, and is part of the series of assets that will “be wound down and terminated as part of our effort to focus the pipeline on higher conviction programs with the greatest potential for patients and pipeline assessment is ongoing.”

No specific details were given about why these drugs have been axed.

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