Six weeks after Sanofi-Aventis coughed up $500 million for a company with 18 employees, the deal already smells like roses.
When Sanofi reeled in San Francisco-based BiPar Sciences, the prize was an investigational drug known as BSI-201, the furthest along of a new breed of cancer fighters known as PARP inhibitors.
That drug—it was revealed at the recently concluded meetings of the American Society of Clinical Oncology—prolonged survival in women with a particularly nasty form of breast cancer by 61%, to 9.2 months, when added to standard chemotherapy.
That result was hailed as “a huge bombshell” by Powel Brown, director of Baylor’s Breast Center. He predicted the FDA would approve the drug within 2 years.
In commenting on Paris-based Sanofi’s shrewd acquisition, Chief Executive Officer Chris Viehbacher told Bloomberg, “the size of teams and the size of their budget do not correlate to research and development success.”
After chemotherapy or radiation damages the DNA of cancer cells, they typically mobilize PARP enzymes to repair the damage. PARP inhibitors block these enzymes, thereby enhancing the efficacy of the initial treatment.
The ASCO study focused on 116 patients with triple-negative breast cancer, an aggressive form of the disease that is usually unresponsive to treatment because it lacks all 3 genetic targets which have become the focus of modern treatments. About 15% of breast cancer cases are triple-negative.
Nearly 60% of the patients randomized to receive BSI-201 experienced tumor shrinkage or at least slowed progression. That was 3 times more than those receiving standard chemotherapy.
Sanofi ‘s next step is to begin a larger trial designed to confirm the findings. That could be completed within a year and then, assuming results hold, they’re off to see the wizards at FDA.