In DepthBiomedicine

A new cancer immunotherapy suffers a setback

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Science  11 May 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6389, pp. 588
DOI: 10.1126/science.360.6389.588

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The surprising failure last month of a large clinical trial of a promising cancer immunotherapy drug from the biotech company Incyte has quickly reverberated across the pharmaceutical industry. Three companies have canceled, suspended, or downsized 12 other phase III trials of the compound, epacadostat, or two similar drugs, together slated to enroll more than 5000 patients with a variety of advanced cancers. The companies say they aren't dropping the potential drugs, designed to unleash the immune system on cancer cells by blocking an enzyme called indoleamine (2,3)-dioxygenase. But the retrenching suggests that the frenzy to combine novel drugs with the wildly successful immune checkpoint inhibitors is outpacing the science.

  • * Ken Garber is a science journalist in Ann Arbor, Michigan.