ESMO: Pfizer eyes commercial scale-up as Array colorectal cancer combo hits its marks

Pfizer
Pfizer presented data Monday at the European Society for Medical Oncology annual meeting in Barcelona. (Pfizer)

BARCELONA—Positive new colorectal cancer data has Pfizer envisioning a launch for its newly acquired Array BioPharma meds. And the company is getting prepared.

Monday at the European Society for Medical Oncology annual meeting, the New York drugmaker presented data showing that its Braftovi and Mektovi, when combined with anti-EGFR drug Erbitux, could extend previously treated patients’ lives for a median nine months, compared with just 5.4 months for standard-of-care therapy. In other words, it decreased the risk of death by 48%.

The numbers have Pfizer “very excited” and planning an FDA submission for the fourth quarter of this year, Andy Schmeltz, global president and general manager of Pfizer’s oncology unit, said.

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The prognosis for this patient pool is “very poor, and to have a new option that can really extend life … is very significant,” he said.

RELATED: Array's 'extremely compelling' new colon cancer data spark blockbuster talk

But the company is also “mindful of the resources that will be required for a successful launch” in that arena—resources that hadn’t yet been allocated when Pfizer swallowed Braftovi and Mektovi’s maker, Array, for $11.4 billion in July.

“There had not been the scaling up to prepare to launch in colorectal cancer, and that’s what we’re partnering right now to prepare for,” Schmeltz said, adding that “we’re going to size and scale as appropriate.”

Thanks to the acquisition, the pharma giant now also has the chance to throw its weight behind the duo in melanoma, where Array got off to a flying start. After just a year on the market, the combo is already grabbing 1 in 3 new patient starts, despite competition from two other in-class combos.

Still, “the focus for Array had really been in the cancer centers,” Schmeltz said. Given that the company had only been marketing the drugs for a year when it agreed to tie the knot with Pfizer, its reps “hadn’t really had the opportunity yet to engage more broadly with community-based oncologists.”

“This gives us the opportunity to do that,” he noted.

RELATED: Pfizer, 'never say never' with big M&A, inks $11.4B Array cancer deal

While Pfizer will add staffers and funding to the effort, though, it’ll still be leaning on Array for its experience in the melanoma field. “Pfizer Oncology did not have a presence in melanoma, so we need the expertise that the Array colleagues bring to the table,” Schmeltz said. He pointed out that “it’s not an integration about synergy,” which is a pharma favorite term for cost-cutting.

“We’re working together to bring” the Array employees on board, and everything’s going very smoothly, he said.

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