Celgene Acquires Abraxis In $2.9 Billion Deal

handshake2Celgene has acquired Abraxis BioScience in a cash-and-stock deal valued at $2.9 billion, reports FierceBiotech. Under the terms of the agreement, Celgene will gain control of Abraxane, a breast cancer drug developed by Abraxis. The drug also has the potential to treat other cancers such as stage IIB-IV melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer, and pancreatic cancer. The deal is expected to strengthen Celgene’s presence in the oncology market.

Abraxane consists of a formulation of the cancer drug Paclitaxel (Taxol) with albumin, a human protein. It is free of chemical solvents that can cause allergic reactions in patients. In a clinical trial of women with metastatic breast cancer, Abraxane outperformed solvent-based paclitaxel when it came to tumor response. Despite its demonstrated benefits, according to the Forbes blog, the drug has not sold particularly well. Abraxane earned sales of $300 million in 2009. Senior Editor Matthew Herper speculates that Abraxane may sell better with Celgene’s management team behind it.

Behind skin cancer, breast cancer is the second-most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. A number of companies are developing breast cancer treatments designed to be easier on the body than standard of care treatments such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy. One company working in this field  is NeoPharm. The company is developing a breast cancer treatment based upon technology that entraps hard-to-deliver drugs in liposomes, tiny membrane-like structures created from fats. Because tumors need to consume fat to grow, they recognize the liposome as a source of nutrition.

NeoPharm’s breast cancer drug candidate, LEP-ETU, is a liposome formulation of Taxol.  In a 35-patient clinical trial, patients who took LEP-ETU experienced a 46 percent response rate, compared to 11 percent for free Taxol and 23 percent for Abraxane. No unexpected toxicities were observed. The company has started a Phase II trial for recurrent breast cancer.

Other companies working in this space include Wilex AG and Abviva. Novian Health has FDA clearance to market a laser-ablation device to treat benign breast tumors. The company is now working on receiving clearance to use the device to treat malignant tumors. The minimally-invasive procedure may provide an alternative to surgical lumpectomy.

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