Biomarkers rescue Amgen's MAb, support Roche's Avastin

One of the developing roles for biomarkers is to support personalized medicine--to help doctors select those patients who are more or less likely to respond to a particular treatment. In a study published in The Lancet Oncology, a team of Belgian researchers have found that people with pancreatic and kidney cancer and a genetic variant are less likely to respond to treatment with Genentech/Roche's ($RHHBY) Avastin (bevacizumab). There is currently no test to select patients for treatment with Avastin, and testing for this variant could save patients undergoing treatment that wouldn't help them, as well as saving money that could be used to support other treatments.

In another story about biomarkers and monoclonal antibodies, Amgen ($AMGN) had previously put aside its monoclonal antibody, rilotumumab, in development for the treatment of gastric cancer and acquired as part of its Immunex purchase, because the company felt that the improvements in survival were not enough to support development. The company, in data to be presented at ASCO, has spotted that the monoclonal antibody helps a subgroup of patients with high levels of the biomarker c-Met, improving their overall survival when given with chemotherapy.

"Some of the early studies that were done with rilotumumab did not give us the level of evidence that would make us advance the program," David Chang, Amgen's vice president of oncology development, told Bloomberg Businessweek. "When the biomarker data came out, that tipped the balance."

"These data are the first to demonstrate a potential biomarker for treatment with rilotumumab in gastric cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide," said Dr. Michael Severino, senior vice president of global development and chief medical officer at Amgen.

Want to read more about personalized medicine? In the ebook "Companion diagnostics: The future of medicine," we've looked at the development of targeted drugs and companion diagnostics, including the successful and not-so-successful projects, and what issues (and opportunities) there will be for regulators, biopharma companies and payers moving into the future.

- read the press release about bevacizumab
- see the abstract about bevacizumab from the Lancet Oncology
- check out the article about rilotumumab
- read the article about rilotumumab in Bloomberg Businessweek
- see the press release on rilotumumab