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Roche throws in the towel on Tecentriq bladder, myeloma trials


Roche’s Tecentriq nabbed key approvals in breast cancer and small-cell lung cancer last month. 

Roche’s Tecentriq has scored some important victories lately, including a pair of first-in-class approvals. But in other types of cancer, the Swiss drugmaker has decided to pull the plug.

In a Wednesday update to its pharma pipeline, Roche listed two phase 1 Tecentriq studies—one in non-muscle invasive bladder cancer and one in multiple myeloma—that it had cast aside.

The two fields couldn’t be more different in terms of immuno-oncology competition. Bladder cancer is a crowded area where five of six available members of the PD-1/PD-L1 cohort bear approvals, including Tecentriq—and it’s also one that’s given Roche trouble in the past.

After paving the way for the class in bladder cancer, Tecentriq in 2017 failed to show it could improve survival in a confirmatory trial. And just over a year later, the FDA flagged Tecentriq and Merck’s competing drug Keytruda for decreasing survival chances among bladder cancer patients with low levels of the biomarker PD-L1.

That’s not to say Roche is giving up on the area, though. Four phase 3 trials are looking at the drug in various bladder cancer indications, including those in both invasive and non-muscle invasive forms of the disease.

Myeloma, on the other hand, is an area Tecentriq and its classmates have yet to break into at all, though it’s not for lack of trying. In 2017, Merck hit the brakes on two phase 3 Keytruda studies to investigate deaths among myeloma patients taking the superstar treatment alongside Celgene’s Revlimid and Pomalyst. Ultimately, the FDA put two trials on full hold and stopped dosing in a third, and all patients came off the regimen.

Roche has had its own troubles lately in myeloma, too. Deaths in a trial of Venclexta, a drug it shares with AbbVie, recently forced the FDA to halt enrollment in all of Venclexta’s myeloma trials.

Meanwhile, though, outside of those two areas, Tecentriq has nabbed a couple of key regulatory boosts. Last month, it picked up a first-in-class approval in tough-to-treat triple negative breast cancer, followed by a blockbuster nod in extensive-stage small cell lung cancer.