ZURICH Swiss drugmaker Novartis is hoping key cancer data on both its marketed products as well as promising drugs in its early pipeline will show it can pack a punch in the oncology field at a major industry meeting later this week.
The Basel-based group, which trails local rival Roche in oncology, will present late-stage data on its drug Afinitor in postmenopausal women with advanced breast cancer as well as two late-stage studies on its blood cancer drug Tasigna in patients with Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic myeloid leukaemia.
In addition, Novartis will present a slew of early-stage data on compounds to treat a variety of diseases, including non-small cell lung cancer, metastatic breast cancer, NRAS-melanoma and other solid tumors.
"It's a reflection of the breadth of our portfolio," Novartis oncology chief Herve Hoppenot told Reuters.
Oncology accounts for around a third of Novartis's current pharma business and Hoppenot said the company was positioning itself as one of the leaders in the fields of targeted products.
The Swiss drugmaker is increasingly focusing on specialist drugs to help protect its profitability, at a time when top-selling drugs such as blood-pressure treatment Diovan face generic competition.
Around 220,000 women globally are diagnosed with ER+ HER2- advanced breast cancer each year. Novartis is hoping to hear back from regulators about approval for Afinitor in breast cancer in the second half of this year.
The drug is already approved for other types of cancer such as kidney and a rare type of pancreatic cancer and Novartis expects to generate $1 billion or more in annual sales from a new use in breast cancer.
Novartis is presenting 160 abstracts at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago from June 1 to 5.
Thousands of doctors and researchers gathered at the event will be able to pore over early-stage data on several compounds in Novartis' pipeline, which highlight its drive for targeted therapies.
Among the studies being presented is a phase II study of MEK162, which will be the first targeted therapy to show activity in patients with NRAS-melanoma.
Novartis will also present data on two pipeline compounds to treat metastatic breast cancer as well as a phase I study of LDK378 in patients with a certain type of non-small cell lung cancer.
Hoppenot said the industry-wide push to better identify which patients will benefit from a given drug should help accelerate the development cycle and cut costs.
"We are seeing how to develop these products faster because we know what we are looking for," Hoppenot said, adding that over time he expects fewer mega blockbuster drugs, with pharma companies' portfolios instead becoming more diversified.
(Editing by David Cowell)