Yet another AbbVie-Roche regimen, this time with Venclexta and Gazyva, hits its marks in CLL

Venclexta
Industry watchers say Venclexta's peak sales could reach $3 billion by 2022. (AbbVie)

AbbVie and Roche aim to drive further into the chronic lymphocytic leukemia market, and they’re pairing their newer drugs to do it.

On Wednesday, the drugmakers said a combination of AbbVie’s Venclexta and Roche’s Gazyva had cut the risk of disease worsening or death against the standard-of-care combo Gazyva plus the chemotherapy chlorambucil. The trial tested the duo in previously untreated patients with existing health problems. And they’ll be taking their detailed results—which are under wraps for now—to regulators around the world, they said.

The pairing would provide a chemo-free option for newly diagnosed patients, something Roche’s chief medical officer and head of global product development, Sandra Horning, M.D., says some people badly need.

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RELATED: AbbVie, Roche drive Venclexta toward $3B with Rituxan combo nod in CLL

“Some patients are unable to tolerate chemotherapy regimens due to their underlying health,” she pointed out in a statement, adding that “we will work with health authorities to bring this potential chemotherapy-free treatment option to people who need it as quickly as possible.”

It’s not the first time the two pharma giants have joined forces on a chemo-free option in CLL. In June, they snagged an FDA approval for a regimen containing Venclexta and Rituxan—a Roche megablockbuster and predecessor to Gazyva—in CLL patients who have relapsed, an indication industry watchers think could help Venclexta reach the $2 billion mark by the end of the decade. Just Thursday, they won European approval for the same pairing.

RELATED: AbbVie eyes Imbruvica expansion in CLL as Gazyva pairing hits its marks

And earlier this year, a cocktail of AbbVie’s Imbruvica—a drug the Illinois company shares with Johnson & Johnson—and Gazyva beat out the Gazyva-chlorambucil standard at staving off cancer progression in the front-line setting.

Roche, for its part, is happy to see relative newcomer Gazyva begin to take the baton from Rituxan, which is one of a handful of Roche cancer fighters biosimilar copycats are targeting. In addition to Gazyva, the Swiss company is looking to other oncology products such as breast cancer treatment Perjeta and immuno-oncology entrant Tecentriq—as well as MS therapy Ocrevus and hemophilia treatment Hemlibra—to ramp things up before the knockoffs hit.