Boehringer calls it quits on Gilotrif expansion effort in head and neck cancer

Boehringer was hoping to get some more mileage out of its targeted lung cancer med Gilotrif. But those hopes were dashed when a data monitoring committee advised the German drugmaker to halt a clinical trial.

The German drugmaker stopped two Phase III trials evaluating the med in patients with locally advanced head and neck cancer who showed no signs of disease after chemo. The company had hoped to show that post-chemo Gilotrif treatment would help keep the cancer from returning, but an independent data monitoring committee thought otherwise.

The committee “made the assessment that it would be highly unlikely” that Boehringer’s trials would produce a significant advantage for the company’s product over placebo, Boehringer said Monday.

While Boehringer’s expansion effort may have been thwarted, it has others in the works. As the company noted, it’s still developing the med in other solid tumors--an effort it hopes will boost Gilotrif, which boasts approvals in distinct types of EGFR mutation-positive non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the lung.

And Gilotrif could use that boost. It last year picked up a new EGFR competitor in AstraZeneca’s Iressa, which staged a comeback with a first-line lung cancer nod after four years off the market. And it was already up against Tarceva, a therapy from cancer giant Roche.

Meanwhile, though, Boehringer is focusing its efforts on areas other than cancer, too. It recently agreed to trade away its consumer health assets to Sanofi in exchange for the French drugmaker’s animal health unit. And it’s been making waves in diabetes with partner Eli Lilly; last year, the pair’s Jardiance became the first diabetes med to show it could cut the combined rate of heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular death, and the tandem now plans to test the drug as a treatment for heart failure.


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