Gilead reports new data on efficacy of CAR-T therapy Yescarta

Gilead has reported results from ZUMA-1 clinical trial, designed to assess the breakthrough investigational therapy Yescarta (axicabtagene ciloleucel), on patients with large B-cell lymphoma. The treatment has been developed by Kite, the biotech acquired by Gilead in 2017. The trial was aimed at assessing patients’ response two years after the last treatment, and results show that 39% of them still respond positively. The data have been presented at the American Society of Clinical Hematology meeting, currently being held in San Diego, and published in the prestigious journal The Lancet Oncology.

Yescarta joined Gilead’s portfolio last August as the company acquired Kite Pharmaceuticals for $11.9bn, and was approved by FDA in October 2017. Analysts and investors are still skeptical about Kite’s acquisition and, more generally, about CAR-T therapies. These treatments have proven efficacy in targeting challenging cancer types, such as lymphoma, yet they are extremely expensive since they require a complex structure to be administered. Yescarta and Kymriah–Novartis’ CAR-T therapy–are marketed at a record $373,000 per treatment and have respectively generated $183m and $48m in the first 9 months of the year.

Gilead’s shares closed at 3.21% on Friday (Nasdaq), with a 3.21% rise, and opened the week at 2.2% in pre-market trading, although the increase could be due to rumors about an impending acquisition of Belgian-based biotech Galapagos.