A new drug for patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) could be around the corner after Lilly's biologic ramucirumab hit survival goals in a late-stage trial.

According to data from the Phase III REVEL study, patients with second-line NSCLC taking ramucirumab alongside chemotherapy showed a statistically-significant improvement in overall survival.

The Indianapolis-based drug giant said REVEL also revealed a statistically-significant improvement in progression-free survival in the ramucirumab arm compared to the control arm.

However, details on the magnitude of the improvements seen, and also whether any differences in survival were observed for patients with squamous or non-squamous forms of the disease, are being kept under wraps until a full set of data is revealed at an upcoming scientific meeting.

Richard Gaynor, senior vice president, product development and medical affairs for Lilly Oncology, did say that REVEL is "the first positive Phase III study of a biologic in combination with chemotherapy to demonstrate improved overall survival compared to chemotherapy alone in second-line non-small cell lung cancer".

Lilly is intending to submit the first application of these data to regulatory authorities sometime this year.

Analysts certainly see ramucirumab as quite the opportunity for Lilly, with the consensus peak sales overshooting the $1 billion mark. The drug is being assessed in a variety of cancers.

Novartis' sonidegib hits skin cancer goal

Elsewhere, Novartis said its investigational compound LDE225 (sonidegib) hit its primary target in a pivotal trial for patients with advanced basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer.

LDE225 is an oral, investigational, selective smoothened inhibitor being studied in a variety of cancers. 

Data from the Phase II BOLT trial, designed to assess the safety and efficacy of two oral doses of the drug (200mg and 800mg) in locally advanced or metastatic basal cell carcinoma, showed that it "achieved clinically significant tumour response" including disappearance of the tumour in some patients within six months of treatment, the Swiss drugmaker said.

Again, a full set of data is to be presented at a future scientific meeting.