Boehringer and AbbVie are reportedly weighing a multibillion-dollar cancer alliance

Drugmakers Boehringer Ingelheim and AbbVie ($ABBV) are discussing an oncology partnership potentially worth billions of dollars, according to Bloomberg, a move that could help both companies play catch-up in a fast-growing field.

The pair are in advanced talks on a cancer collaboration, Bloomberg reports, citing unnamed sources. The negotiations could still fall apart, according to Bloomberg, but could also result in a multibillion-dollar agreement as soon as this week.

Both companies have declined to comment on the rumor, and it remains unclear whether the reported discussions include each firm's marketed drugs or focus solely on the pipeline.

Boehringer and AbbVie are both light on approved cancer therapies, marketing two apiece, but each has been spending big over the past few years to build pipelines of oncology drugs that might contend in a multibillion-dollar market.

AbbVie made headlines last year when it traded $21 billion for Pharmacyclics and a 50% share of Imbruvica, a blood cancer treatment the company believes can bring in $7 billion a year at its peak. AbbVie is charging forward with the Roche ($RHHBY)-partnered venetoclax with hopes of winning a first approval this summer, and the company is working through Phase III trials with treatments for lung, breast, ovarian and blood cancers. Alongside partner Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY), the company won approval last year for a multiple myeloma treatment called Empliciti.

Boehringer won FDA approval for the lung cancer treatment Gilotrif in 2013 and is now working to expand its indication into other malignancies. The German company also markets nintedanib, approved to treat idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, as a therapy for colorectal cancer, and it's pushing through Phase III with treatments for lung cancer and acute myeloid leukemia.

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