Bristol-Myers Squibb is ending its collaboration with France’s Pierre Fabre which was developing the new cancer compound vinflunine.

The firms said they have jointly decided to terminate their licence agreement for vinflunine, a chemotherapy agent under investigation for the treatment of advanced or metastatic bladder cancer and other tumour types. They added that a review of the clinical development programme for the product and the recent decision not to file a New Drug Application for bladder cancer in the USA, plus “an analysis of B-MS's R&D priorities”, will see the rights for vinflunine will be returned to Pierre Fabre.

The Castres-based privately-owned firm, which developed and licensed rights to the drug to B-MS in 2004, still has faith in the drug. Patrick Hurteloup, general manager of Pierre Fabre’s oncology division, said the company plans to continue discussions with regulatory authorities and plans to file vinflunine for bladder cancer in the first quarter of 2008. He added that "we also are considering a range of further development options, including pursuing the product on a worldwide basis for the treatment of a number of cancers”.

The news of B-MS abandoning the project came as no great surprise considering its decision not to pursue an NDA for vinflunine which it said was based on feedback from the Food and Drug Administration. Still, oncology remains a vital area for the New York-based firm, which received approval last month for Ixempra (ixabepilone), a first-in-class drug, as a treatment for advanced breast cancer.