At Inflection Point, NovoCure Expands Glioblastoma Portfolio in US


NovoCure plans to launch a U.S.-based arm to renew the focus on growing its glioblastoma (GBM) business and increase its patient population.

NovoCure named Frank Leonard, the company’s chief product officer, to lead the new effort. Leonard confirmed that a new U.S. site under construction is slated to open next year in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, near Boston.

NovoCure makes battery-powered skull caps that deliver electrical pulses to treat patients with brain tumors. The company’s technology, Tumor Treating Fields, slows and reverses tumor growth by interfering with cell division.

The device is approved in the United States for patients with stage 4 glioblastomas. It’s also approved in Europe, Japan and elsewhere.

The publicly traded NovoCure disclosed in its latest quarterly report that 2,229 patients currently wear the device, and another 954 received new prescriptions for it.

Professor Yoram Palti launched NovoCure in 2000 based on his research into the electrical treatment of cancer. His work showed that the growth of cancer tumors can be slowed or reversed if pulsed with specific electrical frequencies of alternating currents. Palti remains the company's chief technology officer.

Leonard told BioSpace in an interview that 35% of eligible U.S. patients are currently prescribed NovoCure’s device, and the new U.S. effort aims to increase that percentage.

He said the device has the power of a 30-watt lightbulb but has been designed to deliver the electrical charge over several hours a day, with minimal discomfort to the patient.

“We are making the change to refocus the business on the United States,” Leonard said. "It makes sense morally and ethically that we should have as many patients as possible. We take it as a mission." 

The U.S.-based team plans to expand its outreach to doctors to help them "really understand the therapy," Leonard added. 

Meanwhile, he said his European colleagues will continue to pursue research and development into the device’s potential to treat other forms of cancer, aiming to expand beyond its main focus on brain tumors. 

NovoCure has Phase III trials testing the device in patients with brain metastasis, non-small cell lung cancer, pancreatic cancer and ovarian cancer. It has also completed a Phase II trial in hepatocellular carcinoma and completed enrollment for a Phase II trial testing the device in gastric adenocarcinoma.

Novocure reported revenue of $140.9 million in the second quarter of this year. Some $108.2 million of that derived from U.S. patients, which was an increase from the $97.4 million in U.S. revenue reported in the first quarter. The company spent $57 million on research and development in the second quarter. 

“The company is at an inflection point,” Leonard said.

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