Novartis buries a PhIII kidney cancer failure behind Q2 successes

Two years ago, investigators for Novartis ($NVS) pulled into ASCO flagging a slate of high-profile cancer drugs at the top of its oncology pipeline, including the mid-stage results for dovitinib (TKI258), a tyrosine kinase inhibitor the pharma giant believed had a good shot at besting Nexavar in treating kidney cancer. Yesterday, if you dug down past its PR on second-quarter successes and into a more detailed description of its pipeline work, you would find that dovitinib failed the head-to-head showdown in Phase III.

In a terse summary, Novartis noted: "Results of the Phase III trial evaluating the investigational therapy TKI258 showed the drug did not meet its primary endpoint of progression-free survival compared to sorafenib in patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma (mRCC) after failure with prior therapies. The TKI258 program continues with ongoing solid tumor studies."

According to, Novartis recruited 564 renal cell carcinoma patients for the study, looking to examine PFS after 386 deaths.

A spokesperson for Novartis did not immediately return a message from FierceBiotech.

But then, they rarely do. Aside from the occasional sit-down with The Wall Street Journal and other such financial pubs, Novartis remains one of the least transparent companies of all the Big 10 pharma giants. Success is heralded, failure barely warrants a footnote. And the company clearly doesn't care to publicly discuss pipeline setbacks.

- here's the file on Novartis' Q2 (PDF)