Just as it needed to score some positive news on the cancer R&D front, alisertib's flop raised fresh questions over Takeda's future in cancer drugs.
Incoming Takeda CEO Christophe Weber already had his hands full when he tackled the top job at the Japanese pharma company. And it wasn't made any easier when alisertib--a top prospect in cancer therapies that helped drive the $8.8 billion acquisition of Millennium--flopped in a late-stage study for peripheral T-cell lymphoma.
Takeda decided to pull the plug on the Phase III study after an interim analysis convinced its R&D execs that the drug was headed straight to a failure on progression-free survival. The company immediately turned to its other studies already underway, particularly in small cell lung cancer. But the drug is continuing under a cloud now, when Takeda needs to be confidently touting its prospects for a turnaround.
Weber has been taking several new approaches to R&D, dropping the Millennium name earlier in the year as it also regrouped on the vaccines front.
Takeda's big R&D hope now rests almost entirely in the hands of the execs handling ixazomib, a promising oral proteasome inhibitor that Takeda needs to establish before it loses its big Velcade franchise. But after a U.S. judge struck down the Velcade patent last summer, Weber may not have the time he needs to establish a new franchise. Overall, it was a bad time to experience a new flop, on top of its setback with orteronel in the summer of 2014.
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