Will Abraxane join the new gang of melanoma fighters? The Celgene ($CELG) drug, a reformulated version of the chemo drug paclitaxel, kept the cancer at bay for longer than the standard chemotherapy, dacarbazine, a new study found. That may or may not be enough to put Abraxane into the mix with Bristol-Myers Squibb's ($BMY) Yervoy and Roche's ($RHHBY) targeted melanoma drug Zelboraf.
Abraxane, which is approved to treat breast cancer, met its primary endpoint in the late-stage trial in melanoma patients whose cancer had spread. It demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in progression-free survival, Celgene said. Details won't be available till next month, when the data are presented at a melanoma conference.
The missing piece, of course, is Abraxane's ability to actually extend patients' lives. Yervoy has proven effective at not only holding off cancer growth, but prolonging patients' lives, particularly in those who've failed on previous treatment. Zelboraf, approved under FDA's fast-track program, showed an average 7 month increase in overall survival in one small study.
Before Yervoy hit the market last year, the choices for melanoma patients were limited. Now, with Yervoy and Zelboraf both approved on the basis of overall survival numbers FDA will probably want Celgene to show that its drug prolongs patients' lives, too, analysts told Reuters. But GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) recently went to FDA for approval on two new melanoma drugs, based only on progression-free survival results. And the next new treatment approach may be combining a couple of these new drugs.
Still, Celgene's stock went up on the news. The company is also developing Abraxane for pancreatic cancer treatment. "We view today's news as an upside surprise, given very low expectations for Abraxane in this indication," J.P. Morgan's Geoff Meacham told the news service.
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