Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Johnson & Johnson Adds Aragon Pharma Drug to Oncology Drug Portfolio

On Seeking Alpha:
Investors reacted somewhat favorably towards Johnson's acquisition of Aragon Pharmaceuticals. Four years ago the company already acquired the Zytiga cancer drug when it acquired Cougar Biotechnology for $1 billion. The drug has been a huge success, used by more than 60,000 patients. Zytiga generated first quarter revenues of $344 million, up 72% on the year before.
As a drug that inhibits the formation of testostone precursors, Zytiga was well positioned to be of benefit in  prostate cancer.  It looks like Johnson & Johnson is on its way to recoup the outlay for Cougar Biotechnology in the near future.
Still, a potential market entrance of ARN-509 is not likely for a few more years. Unlike Zytiga, ARN-509 has the potential to help as well for patients in whom cancer has not spread yet. Combining both technologies and drugs could ease the pain from competition arriving in 2016 when generic drugs will impact Zytiga's sales.
ARN-509 is an interesting complement to Zytiga because it's not acting through another metabolic pathway; the primary mode of action is to inhibit androgen receptor localization to the nucleus, preventing it from activating downstream genes.
If approved, the potential new ARN-509 drug would have market exclusivity until 2028. Johnson & Johnson is still awaiting late-stage trials to asses the methods of usage of ARN-509, including the possibilities of whether it would be used in combination, or sequentially, with Zytiga.
I'm looking forward to seeing what strategy ends up as the better one.  Combination therapy of Zytiga and ARN-509 might corner cancer cells and kill them effectively, but might also pressure them to evolve to another, perhaps undruggable, state that's not dependent on Androgen Receptor or the formation of testosterone.  On the other hand, sequential therapy with one drug may push the cells to become more sensitive to the other.

This growing prostate cancer portfolio is definitely one to watch.