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Roche to Halt Lung Cancer Drug Study in Fresh Setback

(Bloomberg) — Roche Holding AG will halt a study of a potential blockbuster drug after it performed worse than existing therapy in lung cancer, marking a fresh research setback for the Swiss drugmaker. 

The experimental medicine, called tiragolumab, was combined with another Roche treatment and chemotherapy in the clinical trial. The trio failed to extend patients’ lives or the time before their disease got worse, in a comparison with Merck & Co.’s best-seller Keytruda and chemotherapy, Roche said in a statement. 

The trial failure is the latest in a series of drug-development blows for Roche, following disappointments in Alzheimer’s disease and in cancer. Chief Executive Officer Thomas Schinecker pledged last year to make the company quicker and more efficient at developing new medicines. 

The shares dropped as much as 3.2% in early trading in Zurich. Roche has fallen 1.7% so far this year. 

The experimental treatment that stumbled on Thursday has a checkered history. It failed in a different crucial lung-cancer study two years ago, yet last year some accidentally disclosed data hinted that the test might be successful after all.

Roche will assess whether changes need to be made to other studies of the experimental drug. The company’s website shows 11 studies being conducted with tiragolumab across a range of types of cancer. 

What Bloomberg Intelligence Says:

Roche’s failed Skyscraper-06 study in frontline non-squamous lung cancer reduces the long-term sales potential of its late-stage TIGIT inhibitor, tiragolumab, which was being compared for efficacy with the high standard-of-care bar of Merck’s Keytruda. We see no direct read-through to the Skyscraper-01 study.

— John Murphy, BI pharma analyst

The patients in the trial had the most common form of lung cancer that hadn’t been treated, couldn’t be removed with surgery or had spread. 

(Updates with potential blockbuster in the first paragraph, analyst comment in seventh)

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.

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