ESMO 2018 spotlights Merck’s Keytruda, Pfizer's Ibrance, AstraZeneca’s Lynparza and more

Austrian hotel group Vienna House has launched its newest brand, Vienna House R.evo.
ESMO will be held this year in Munich, Germany. (Alejandro/CC BY 2.0)

MUNICH—When it comes to oncology, there’s literally no time like the present. Groundbreaking new drug classes such as PD-1/L1, PARP and CDK 4/6 are gaining steam and revolutionizing cancer treatment, and they’re doing it quickly.

That means that once again, this year’s European Society for Medical Oncology annual meeting will be packed with important data, and we at FiercePharma intend to keep you up to date on key developments on already marketed drugs looking to sharpen their marketing edge and expand into new uses. As the meeting kicks off, here are the studies we have our eyes on.

Roche’s Tecentriq in triple-negative breast cancer: Triple-negative breast cancer is notoriously hard to treat, but Roche’s immuno-oncology med Tecentriq came away with a victory in the field in July. It was the first drug in its class of PD-1/PD-L1 cancer fighters to do so, and at ESMO it’ll be rolling out full results that could make it the first in its class to score an approval in the disease.


Pfizer’s Ibrance in HR-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer: Pfizer hotshot Ibrance hasn’t faced much in the way of trial setbacks in its short—and so far impressive—life. But it hit a snag in June, failing to show it could help HR-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer patients whose disease has progressed after endocrine therapy live longer. It’ll be outlining the particulars of that study miss on Saturday.

Pfizer and Merck KGaA’s Bavencio and Pfizer’s Inlyta in kidney cancer: If Merck’s Thursday Keytruda win is any indication, kidney cancer is about to get crowded. Pfizer and Merck KGaA are hoping the data they trumpet this weekend on a combo of checkpoint inhibitor Bavencio and Pfizer’s Inlyta can grab them an FDA go-ahead and set them up for prime positioning in a competitive arena.

AstraZeneca and Merck’s Lynparza in ovarian cancer maintenance: AstraZeneca and partner Merck picked up a key trial win in June, with Lynparza showing it could stave off progression in newly diagnosed women with BRCA-mutated ovarian cancer. The companies are in line for a $1 billion opportunity in a red-hot PARP field—that is, if the data they’ll be trotting out at ESMO on Sunday can impress the FDA.

Merck’s Keytruda in first-line head and neck cancer: At one point, Merck’s conditional approval in previously untreated head and neck cancer looked like it could be in jeopardy. Last July, the New Jersey drugmaker said Keytruda had failed to show it could extend patients' lives, though its trial miss was a narrow one. Now it's got the data in hand that it needs to back up the approval, and it’ll show those details to the public for the first time this weekend.

Don’t forget to check back throughout the weekend for our coverage and on Monday for our roundup of all the weekend activity. Because in the words of Clovis CEO Patrick Mahaffy, “there’s a lot of exciting stuff coming along.”

“There are going to be presentations here that are going to be practice-changing, and to see that happen as rapidly as it is now in oncology is just particularly gratifying,” he added.