Loxo Oncology is building drugs that act on cancerous genetic mutations rather than the type of cancer a person has.
A company that's building drugs that act on cancerous genetic mutations rather than the type of cancer a person has just got a $1.5 billion endorsement from pharmaceutical giant Bayer.
As part of a deal to commercialize and develop two of Loxo Oncology's cancer drugs, Loxo will get $400 million upfront, with the potential to make $1.15 billion if the drug gets approved and hits a certain amount of sales.
The idea with these genetically defined cancer treatments is that the type of cancer someone has doesn't matter so much as the genetic information gleaned from sequencing the tumor.
Scientists have seen genetic patterns across cancer types for years, but the topic started attracting more attention in 2013 after the discovery that endometrial cancer was genetically similar to forms of ovarian and breast cancer.
But building a treatment that's specific to a genetic mutation is a new approach to treating cancer. Most companies develop treatments for specific types of cancer, like lung cancer or melanoma, and seek approval just for that one kind of tumor at first, before setting up more trials to see how the drug does in other types of cancer.
In May, the FDA approved a drug based on genetics rather than tissue type for the first time, paving the way for others including Loxo.
Loxo's first drug, larotrectinib, works in cancer patients with a mutation called a "TRK gene fusion." Loxo chief business officer Jake Van Naarde told Business Insider in 2016 that the company estimates that there's anywhere from 1,500 to 5,000 new cases of late-stage cancers that have the TRK fusion a year. The company has seen promising results so far in its human trials.
Bayer said in a release Tuesday that Loxo's planning to file the drug for approval by the end of 2017 or early 2018.