Basket cases

How Genentech and Novartis are using basket trials in cancer

Both the Genentech Inc. unit of Roche and Novartis AG are using basket trials to study targeted cancer agents more efficiently. Genentech's initial forays could yield rare subpopulation data to bring its marketed therapies into new indications, while Novartis is starting basket trials earlier in development to inform more traditional trials later on.

Both companies reported results at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting that show how the trials can yield actionable insights for companies.

Molecular basket studies that test a therapy across a range of tumor types that harbor the compound's target are a relatively new idea in cancer.

These studies are efficient, because they can simultaneously test a large number of cancers within a single protocol and give the option to expand or close cohorts based on efficacy or futility signals in few patients.

But they also pose challenges in execution and interpretation. For instance, interested patients might not have suitable biopsy material available or a mutation matched to a trial agent, and efficacy signals could be hard to interpret across

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