AACR: Roche's Tecentriq doesn't amp up Gilead's Yescarta in lymphoma, early study says

With a study of its Yescarta in tandem with Roche’s Tecentriq, Gilead Sciences was aiming to find out whether adding a member of the PD-1/L1 class to CAR-T treatment could improve outcomes for lymphoma patients. But after a small, early study, there’s still no evidence it can.

In a phase 1/2 study to be presented virtually at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting, pairing the two drugs showed a “manageable safety profile” in patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), researchers wrote in an abstract.

But “efficacy outcomes and CAR-T cell level results” for the Yescarta-Tecentriq pairing “were similar to those of patients treated with” Yescarta alone.

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At the 10.2 month-mark post-treatment, 46% of patients who'd received the duo saw their cancers disappear completely. But in Zuma-1, the study that scored Yescarta its DLBCL indication, the drug cleared signs of cancer in 58% of patients.

While the trial was just a “small, open label study,” Jefferies analysts before the meeting pegged it as one to watch. “Results could provide some insight as to whether the combination of the two agents improve CAR-T persistence and disease control durability,” Biren Amin wrote in a mid-April note to clients.

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But the results are likely not what the companies were hoping for as they look to expand their immuno-oncology footprints. Roche is trying to carve out its own footholds as it battles against PD-1 rivals Keytruda from Merck and Opdivo from Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Gilead is working to justify the $11.9 billion it paid to acquire Kite after striking an August 2017 tie-up agreement.