Pfizer sees lung cancer drug topping $1 billion in sales following impressive 5-year data

By Thomson Reuters May 31, 2024 | 7:10 AM

By Michael Erman

(Reuters) – Pfizer said it expects its cancer drug Lorbrena to top $1 billion in annual sales by 2030 on the strength of data presented on Friday showing most patients treated for a rare form of advanced lung cancer in a clinical trial were alive without the disease worsening after five years.

Lorbrena, like Pfizer’s Xalkori, is designed to treat cancer with a mutation of a specific gene called anaplastic lymphoma kinase, or ALK.

Sixty percent of ALK-positive patients with advanced lung cancer who were treated with Lorbrena had no disease progression after five years, according to follow-up results from the company’s Phase 3 CROWN trial unveiled at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago.

That compared with five-year progression-free survival of just 8% of patients treated with Xalkori.

About 53% of Lorbrena patients whose cancer had spread to the brain at the start of the trial were alive without disease progression after five years, the data also showed.

“We believe this is a blockbuster opportunity for Pfizer,” Chief Oncology Officer Chris Boshoff said in an interview.

With “increased uptake, increased market penetration, longer duration of treatment, many more patients tested” for ALK mutations, Boshoff said, “we believe it’s a very different opportunity than Xalkori,” which never reached blockbuster sales of more than $1 billion annually.

Boshoff said China would be a particularly important market for Lorbrena. While 4% of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients globally have ALK-positive tumors, up to 7% of patients in China do. NSCLC is the most common type of lung cancer.

Boshoff also noted that many patients in Pfizer’s clinical trials have been on Lorbrena for more than 5 years, compared to median progression-free survival of 10 to 11 months for Xalkori.

Lorbrena, which won U.S. approval in March of 2021, had sales of $164 million in the first quarter of 2024, up 46% from a year earlier. The company expects double-digit growth to continue in coming quarters, Boshoff said.

Investors have fled from Pfizer as billions of dollars in COVID-19 vaccine and treatment sales disappeared with waning pandemic concerns.

The company responded with a $43 billion purchase of cancer drugmaker Seagen, cost cuts, and an internal restructuring that prioritized its cancer drugs.

In February, the New York-based drugmaker said its cancer unit would have at least eight blockbuster drugs by 2030, up from five currently.

(Reporting by Michael Erman in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot)