Boehringer Ingelheim’s bid to become a force in oncology has been boosted with the news that it is moving its potential lung cancer treatment Vargatef into late-stage trials.

The company stated that Vargatef, a triple angiokinase inhibitor formerly known as BIBF 1120, will be evaluated in two trials – Lume-Lung 1 and 2 – as a second-line therapy in combination with standard chemotherapy agents in patients with non-small-cell lung cancer. The decision to advance the compound is based in part on a Phase II study which included 74 patients with relapsed, advanced NSCLC. The patients experienced longer overall survival (9.5 months), longer progression free survival (2.9 months) and a higher rate of disease control (59%) compared to the overall study population.

Nasser Hanna, professor of medicine at Indiana University and principal investigator of one of the LUME-Lung studies, said “the need to develop newer, smarter therapies has never been so urgent”. He added that “lung cancer remains the leading cause of worldwide cancer deaths despite the availability of numerous therapeutic options."

Dr Hanna went on to note that one in two NSCLC patients who receive treatment fail their initial therapies and remain well enough to receive additional options. The LUME-Lung studies will look at whether the addition of Vargatef to standard second-line treatment regimes will improve the outcome for 2,600 patients, making it one of the largest clinical trial programmes in this indication.

Manfred Haehl, corporate senior vice president of medicine at Boehringer, noted that along with Vargatef, a second Phase III trial of Tovok, a potentially first-in class, polo-like kinase 1 inhibitor known as BI 6727, will begin shortly in first-line NSCLC.