Vanilla might not have come up positive, but at least sanofi-aventis
On Friday afternoon, the companies said they were stopping a trial, oddly named Vanilla, because an interim look at the data showed that aflibercept in combination with Eli Lilly's
Companies build in these interim peeks at the data to potentially cut their losses and not have to wait until the end of the study to realize that the drug doesn't help patients. Considering the high cost of drug development, cutting their losses is a good thing for patients, companies, and shareholders
While the drug doesn't seem to work for pancreatic cancer patients, sanofi-aventis and Regeneron haven't given up on aflibercept altogether. The drug is still in three other phase 3 trials -- thankfully, none of which are named chocolate or strawberry -- testing it as a first-line treatment for prostate cancer and as second-line treatments for colorectal cancer and non-small cell lung cancer.
In all three trials, aflibercept is being tested in combination with currently approved chemotherapy agents. I like that approach because the drug only has to show an improvement to survival rather than trying to beat the current treatments if the study were a head-to-head trial. Pfizer's
Still, as the Vanilla trial shows, adding a treatment is no guarantee you'll avoid a disappointing outcome.