Noted This Week

January 14–20

IBM announced the sale of its Watson Health division to Francisco Partners, a global firm that invests in technology companies, including those focused on health care. Launched in 2015, Watson Health spent billions of dollars to collect health information and patient data to create artificial intelligence tools to aid in drug discovery, offer advice on cancer care, and drive other efforts. However, Watson Health failed to live up to expectations and lost substantial sums, prompting the sale of its assets; financial details weren’t disclosed.

Gilead announced that it will withdraw two indications for idelalisib (Zydelig): relapsed follicular B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma and relapsed small lymphocytic leukemia. In 2014, the FDA granted accelerated approval to idelalisib to treat these conditions, contingent upon receiving additional evidence of clinical benefit. However, the company said that patient enrollment in a confirmatory study proved challenging, prompting the withdrawal of these indications in the United States.

According to data presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium, patients with advanced biliary tract cancer who received the PD-L1 inhibitor durvalumab (Imfinzi; AstraZeneca) and chemotherapy as their first treatment lived longer than those who received chemotherapy alone. In the phase III TOPAZ-1 trial, patients who received the combination experienced a 25% reduction in the risk of disease progression or death compared with standard-of-care chemotherapy. Median progression-free survival was 7.2 months and 5.7 months, respectively, potentially making durvalumab plus chemotherapy a new standard of care.

Results from the phase III HIMALAYA trial, also presented at the ASCO Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium, demonstrated that durvalumab plus the CTLA4 inhibitor tremelimumab (AstraZeneca) significantly improved overall survival in patients with advanced, inoperable hepatocellular carcinoma compared with patients who received durvalumab alone or monotherapy with the multikinase inhibitor sorafenib (Nexavar; Bayer). After 3 years, 30.7% of those who received the combination were still alive compared with 24.7% who received durvalumab and 20.2% who received sorafenib. The overall response rates were 20.1%, 17%, and 5.1%, respectively.

Scotland approved AstraZeneca’s osimertinib (Tagrisso) as a first-line therapy for adults with locally advanced or metastatic non–small cell lung cancer with activating EGFR mutations. The approval was based on the phase III FLAURA trial, which randomly assigned 556 patients to receive osimertinib or one of two other EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Patients who received osimertinib lived a median of 38.6 months compared with 31.8 months for patients in the comparison group; those who received osimertinib also reported fewer adverse events.


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