Eli Lilly Drug Acquired in Armo Deal Fails Pancreatic Cancer Test

Xconomy Indiana — 

An experimental drug that was the centerpiece of a $1.6 billion Eli Lilly acquisition last year has now failed a pivotal test in pancreatic cancer.

Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY) said Wednesday that patients treated with its drug candidate pegilodecakin, plus chemotherapy, did not live longer than patients treated with chemotherapy alone, falling short of the main goal of a Phase 3 study. The Indianapolis-based drug giant said more detailed data about the clinical trial will be submitted for presentation at a future medical meeting.

Lilly acquired pegilodecakin as part of its 2018 purchase of Redwood City, CA-based Armo BioSciences. Armo’s approach to cancer treatment employs cytokines—substances secreted by cells during an immune response—to stimulate the immune system to fight the disease. Pegilodecakin is an engineered version of interleukin-10 (IL-10), a cytokine that activates a cancer-fighting white blood cell. The Phase 3 study in pancreatic cancer, which enrolled 567 patients, started in 2017 under Armo.

Pegilodecakin is also being tested in combination with a different type of immunotherapy called a checkpoint inhibitor. Two separate Phase 2 studies that Armo began are still evaluating that drug combination as a potential treatment for non-small cell lung cancer. Lilly said Wednesday that preliminary results from those studies are expected in early 2020, and the data will inform future development of the drug in that type of lung cancer. Lilly added that it will also assess possible development of the drug for the treatment of other cancers, including renal cell carcinoma.

Here’s more on the early days of Armo and its approach to using IL-10 to treat cancer.

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