Amgen's Climbing Up the Ladder

Amgen (Nasdaq: AMGN  ) finds itself at the bottom of the colorectal-cancer ladder these days. And that's not a great place to be -- especially when you consider what lies at the end of the colon.

The company's cancer treatment Vectibix managed a paltry $153 million in sales last year, because the drug is approved only as a treatment for patients who fail three different chemotherapy regimens, including sanofi-aventis' (NYSE: SNY  ) Eloxatin and Pfizer's (NYSE: PFE  ) Camptosar. By contrast, Bristol-Myers Squibb's (NYSE: BMY  ) and Eli Lilly's (NYSE: LLY  ) competing drug, Erbitux, is approved for use after colorectal cancer patients have failed Camptosar.

Amgen still hopes to ascend this ladder, though. Clinical trial data released Monday night showed that Vectibix was able to extend the progression of the cancer treatment in combination with FOLFIRI, a chemotherapy combination that contains Camptosar. Vectibix extended overall survival compared with FOLFIRI treatment alone, although the benefit wasn't statistically significant. Even better, though, is that Vectibix significantly improved progression-free survival. That part should be enough to get the label changed to indicate that it's approved for use earlier in disease progression.

Earlier this month, Amgen also showed that Vectibix extended progression-free survival in combination with the first-line treatment containing Eloxatin. Taken together, the results should help Vectibix better compete for patients with colorectal cancer.

Amgen modified the clinical-trial designs to include analyzing subclasses of patients depending on their K-ras designation, after retrospective analysis showed that Vectibix and Erbitux worked only on tumors that have mutation-free K-ras genes. Some will also argue that this new data, which supports the conclusion of the retrospective studies, gives Vectibix ammunition over Erbitux because prospective trials are much better than retrospective ones that look at data after the fact. But I think doctors are pretty convinced that the K-ras status plays an important role in whether patients respond to both Vectibix and Erbitux, so I doubt that this news alone will give Vectibix much of an advantage.

Even if the K-ras data doesn't help, the fact that Vectibix works on patients earlier in the disease progression should help sales. Combined with Prolia's mostly positive advisory panel for last week, Amgen looks like it's poised to pop.

Motley Fool Rule Breakers is always on the hunt for hot drug stocks and other cutting-edge picks. See all of our latest discoveries with a free 30-day trial subscription.

Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. Pfizer is an Inside Value selection. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (0) | Recommend This Article (3)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

Be the first one to comment on this article.

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 967378, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 9/21/2014 4:31:44 PM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...


Advertisement