Novartis to Present a Whopping 84 Abstracts at ASCO and EHA


With early news of presentations being announced today at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in the first week of June, it can be hard to nail down which ones are going to be significant. But sometimes the sheer number of presentations are indications of a company’s numerous cancer programs. Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis announced that between the ASCO meeting and the 23rd Annual Congress of the European Hematology Association (EHA) meeting being held June 14 to 17 in Stockholm, Sweden, it will be presenting 84 abstracts.

The posters presented at ASCO range from new data evaluating Kisqali (ribociclib) in advanced breast cancer, to studies of Votrient (pazopanib) in advanced renal cell carcinoma (RCC), and to its Sandoz generics division’s presentation on its biosimilar to filgrastim (Amgen’s Neupogen). The company is presenting five abstracts about Kisqali alone, largely because the drug is being evaluated in combination with several other drugs in hormone receptor-positive (HR+), HER2-negative (HER2-) advanced breast cancer.

Additional ASCO presentations will include data from studies of Trametinib in pediatric neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF-1)-associated plexiform neurofibroma, Phase I/IIa data of dabrafenib in pediatric patients with BRAF V600-mutant relapsed refractory low-grade glioma and others.

Similar studies will be presented at the EHA meeting, including updated analysis of JULIET, a global pivotal Phase II trial of tisagenlecleucel in adults with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, new data for Jakavi (ruxolitinib) in myelofibrosis, and numerous others.

 “Novartis is improving the lives of people with cancer through a relentless commitment to scientific innovation,” said Liz Barrett, chief executive officer of Novartis Oncology, in a statement. “Whether examining investigational treatment combinations, investigating treatment options that may redefine treatment goals of disease like CML, or demonstrating the value of our therapies through real-world studies, Novartis continues to push boundaries as we reimagine cancer.”

This is good news for the company, considering the cloud it’s been operating under since news of its $1.2 million payment to Donald Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen, for “consulting services” broke. Novartis entered a deal with Cohen in February 2017 for one year of consulting at $100,000 per month to advise the company on how the Trump administration might approach healthcare policy.

Cohen had set up a shell company, Essential Consultants, which was not registered as a lobbyist. It is also the company through which Cohen paid adult film actress Stormy Daniels Trump’s hush money over an alleged affair.

It’s clearly an issue Novartis would like to go away and has taken clear steps to separate the company’s chief executive officer Vas Narasimhan from. The arrangement was made before he was appointed chief executive; however, he met with Trump at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland only a few weeks after the final check in January 2018.

Initially, the company stated, “Novartis considers this matter closed as to itself and is not aware of any outstanding questions regarding the agreement.”

However, a few days later, the company’s top attorney, Felix R. Ehrat, the Group General Counsel of Novartis, resigned from his position, taking full responsibility for the payments. The company, apparently not viewing the matter completely closed, stated that Ehrat’s decision was due to the “context of discussions surrounding Novartis’ former agreement with Essential Consultants, owned by Michael Cohen (Trump’s attorney).”

It seems unlikely, especially considering the ongoing independent investigations of Trump, Cohen and the Trump administration by Robert Mueller, that Novartis will escape further coverage of the case. Meanwhile, the company continues broad research, development, and commercial sales of cutting-edge drugs for cancer and other diseases.

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