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Boehringer to work with Roche on cancer diagnostics

Will collaborate with Roche subsidiary Ventana Medical Systems
Boehringer Ingelheim headquarters

Boehringer Ingelheim has taken another step forward with its fledgling oncology business by signing a deal with a Roche subsidiary to develop cancer diagnostics.

The German pharma company will work with Ventana Medical Systems to develop devices to help physicians determine which patients are suitable for treatment with Boehringer's personalised oncology products.

So far, Boehringer's only approved oncology medicine is afatinib, which is branded as Gilotrif in the US and Giotrif in the EU and licensed to treat patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who have the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene mutation.

The US approval came with a recommendation for a third-party diagnostic developed by UK-based device company Qiagen to assess what patients had the EGFR mutation, while no specific diagnostic device was recommended in Europe.

Boehringer is looking to grow its oncology business further, however, by expanding afatinib's licensed indications and bringing to market drug candidates such as nintedanib for lung cancer patients with adenocarcinomas and volasertib for acute myeloid leukaemia.

By developing its own companion diagnostics through the partnership with Ventana, Boehringer expects optimised benefit-risk profiles for its cancer medicines, which is especially important at a time when greater understanding of oncology makes personalised treatment for specific cancer types a real market advantage.

Boehringer's choice of Roche-owned Ventana to co-develop the diagnostic kits is an interesting one, considering Roche itself has the cobas EGFR Mutation Test – an FDA-approved cancer diagnostic device to detect EGFR mutations.

This device was recommended as a companion diagnostic alongside the FDA decision to expand the use of Roche's Tarceva (erlotinib) as a first-line treatment of people with metastatic NSCLC who have the EGFR mutation, meaning the drug offers direct competition to Gilotrif, which was launched in the US earlier this month.

The deal with Ventana does not cover Gilotrif/ Giotrif, however, and will instead focus on future oncology products in development by Boehringer.

"We look forward to partnering with Ventana and accessing their significant capabilities and expertise in developing companion diagnostics that will complement our products to further advance the delivery of personalised healthcare solutions for patients," says Klaus Dugi, corporate senior VP, medicine at Boehringer.

Article by
Thomas Meek

20th September 2013

From: Sales

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