Developers: Dainippon Sumitomo and Boston Biomedical
Lead indication: Colorectal cancer
Key date: Dainippon said it bought Boston Biomedical on Feb. 29, 2012
An emerging area in cancer drug development has been treatments that target cancer stem cells (CSC), upstarts that can duck an attack from chemotherapy and evolve into tumor cells. Japan-based drugmaker Dainippon Sumitomo put itself at the front of the race to develop CSC-targeted drugs with its buyout of Boston Biomedical, which is gearing up for a late-stage study of BBI608 for treating colorectal cancer.
Boston Biomedical (BBI) and Dainippon haven't disclosed the exact molecular targets for BBI608, but BBI says the drug can home in on malignant CSCs and mature cancer cells. The lead indication for the drug is colorectal cancer, and the company says it's getting ready for a Phase III study of the drug for treating colon and rectal tumors. There does not appear to be much publically available data from clinical trials of the drug right now.
Dainippon certainly seems to see some promise in the program. The drugmaker initially struck a partnership with BBI for the development of BBI608 last year before deciding this year to buy the company for $200 million upfront and up to an additional $2.43 billion in payments related to development and sales goals. Without much data on which to judge BBI608 and the rest of BBI's pipeline, it's difficult to say how much of a leap of faith the deal was for Dainippon.
BBI is among a pack of developers, such as Geron ($GERN) and Verastem ($VSTM), that are at various stages of developing drugs that inhibit cancer stem cells. Verastem surprised biotech industry watchers in January, completing an initial public offering before its first drug even entered human clinical trials. Buzz and hype over hot science can induce biotech investors to make some loopy decisions, but we are optimistic about the promise of the CSC field.