AbbVie Removes Two Early-Stage Cancer Assets from Pipeline

AbbVie_iStock, Michael Vi

Update: AbbVie headquarters building in California/iStock, Michael Vi

AbbVie has removed two early-stage antibody-drug conjugates in an update to its pipeline webpage, suggesting that the company is terminating the development of these candidates, Endpoints News reported Thursday.

The company appears to have dropped ABBV-011 and the Pfizer-partnered ABBV-647, both in Phase I development for cancer targets.

BioSpace was not able to determine exactly when the pipeline changes happened, but according to the Wayback Machine—a digital archive of the internet—these two assets were still on AbbVie’s webpage as late as Aug. 19 but have since been removed. BioSpace has reached out to AbbVie for comment but the company was not immediately available.

ABBV-011 is an antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) targeting SEZ6, a cell surface protein commonly highly expressed in neuroendocrine tumors but typically present in low levels in healthy tissues, according to AbbVie’s website. The investigational ADC carries the toxic calicheamicin payload, which has already been used in two FDA-approved ADCs.

AbbVie was evaluating ABBV-011 either as a monotherapy or in combination with the company’s own budigalimab, a PD-1 inhibitor, for the treatment of relapsed or refractory small cell lung cancer.

During the 2023 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), held in June, AbbVie presented Phase I data for ABBV-011, demonstrating that the candidate had encouraging efficacy, eliciting an overall response rate of 25% with a median duration of 4.2 months.

AbbVie’s second discontinued candidate, ABBV-647, is also known as cofetuzumab pelidotin and is an investigational ADC designed to target the PTK7 protein. The candidate carries the payload Aur0101, an auristatin microtubule inhibitor, and was being developed for solid tumors.

The company in February 2020 had also launched a Phase Ib trial of cofetuzumab pelidotin in recurrent non-small cell lung cancer. AbbVie presented its methodology for this trial in 2021, during that year’s annual ASCO meeting.

Cofetuzumab pelidotin was first discovered and developed by Stemcentrx, which debuted in September 2015. The company partnered with Pfizer for the development of the candidate, before it was eventually bought by AbbVie in 2016.

AbbVie’s Wednesday pipeline update stands in contrast to an industry trend of growing preference for ADC therapeutics in cancer.

Last month, ImmunoGen signed a multi-target license and option deal with ImmunoBiochem to develop first-in-class ADCs, though the partners declined to reveal specific financial details. The month before that, Eli Lilly bought European biotech Emergence Therapeutics, gaining access to its anti-Nectin-4 ADC assets.

In March 2023, Pfizer made one of the biggest investments in the ADC space so far with its announced $43 billion acquisition of cancer-focused Seagen. If the deal goes through, it will provide Pfizer’s cancer business with four approved treatments and nearly a dozen promising candidates.

Tristan Manalac is an independent science writer based in Metro Manila, Philippines. He can be reached at tristan@tristanmanalac.com or tristan.manalac@biospace.com.

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