Roche highlights I/O combos as it drops solo development of vanucizumab

roche building

Vanucizumab was intended as a follow-on to Genentech blockbuster cancer drug Avastin (bevacizumab). But parent company Roche ($RHHBY) has opted to discontinue the development of the candidate as a cancer monotherapy on a Phase II trial failure, the pharma said on its Oct. 20 earnings call.

Roche Pharmaceuticals CEO Daniel O’Day explained that the solo development of vanucizumab was discontinued because a Phase II study had not met its primary endpoint, but that it would continue to be studied in several ongoing combo trials.

“We set the bar very high,” he said of the trial. “We have always led by testing vanucizumab head-to-head against Avastin in the first-line colorectal cancer setting. We set the bar very high and did not achieve that bar, but we do also have vanucizumab on ongoing studies with other combinations that are enrolled now and we'll continue those studies to see how the readout of those as well.”

Roche remains all in on its new backbone immunotherapy Tecentriq (atezolizumab), with an elaborate combination menu of clinical trials that includes more than 20 investigational candidates. It has 10 new molecular entities in cancer immunotherapy for which it expects readouts this year and next.

O’Day said of the results of cancer immunotherapy trials: “They will be very informing on the scientific rationale for selecting these combinations that are ongoing programs in selecting different combinations to help us better understand what's going on with their new cycle, which is going to be fundamental for the field and certainly for our very large portfolio.”

The pharma has a dozen Phase III Tecentriq trials that are ongoing, mostly combinations with various chemotherapies. The drug is in seven ongoing late-stage trials in first-line or adjuvant settings, with the first one slated to report data next year and the bulk of the rest to come in 2018.

In Phase II, Roche has three ongoing cancer immunotherapy combo trials with another 28 in Phase I studies.