A cancer drug that AbbVie acquired in a $10 billion deal is looking more and more like a failure

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small cell lung carcinoma lung cancerFlickr/Ed UthmanAbbVie revealed on Wednesday that it had halted patient enrollment in a late-stage clinical trial for a small-cell lung cancer drug after poor patient outcomes.

  • AbbVie acquired the buzzy cancer drug Rova-T in a 2016 deal worth up to $10.2 billion.
  • But the company just stopped enrolling a late-stage trial at an independent committee's recommendation because patients had shorter survival results on the drug.
  • Wall Street had already been lowering its expectations for Rova-T earlier this year.

AbbVie bought the cancer drug dubbed "Rova-T" in a high-profile, up to $10.2 billion deal two years ago - a deal that is looking worse and worse as this year stretches on.

The latest evidence piling up against the drug came on Wednesday afternoon, as the pharmaceutical company disclosed that, in a late-stage trial, patients with lung cancer who took the drug stayed alive for a shorter time than those on the control arm, who were treated with standard chemotherapy.

AbbVie said that it will stop enrollment for the phase 3 trial, called TAHOE, which had been testing Rova-T as a second-line medication for advanced small-cell lung cancer.

In doing so, the company followed the recommendation of an independent Data Monitoring Committee, which applied only to the TAHOE study and not other Rova-T trials, AbbVie said.

The drugmaker is also testing Rova-T for other indications, including as a third-line small-cell lung cancer treatment, a first-line small-cell lung cancer treatment, and in neuroendocrine tumors.

Rova-T, also called rovalpituzumab tesirine, was developed to target a protein called DLL3 that is expressed in most small-cell lung cancer patient's tumors but not in healthy tissue, according to AbbVie.

The company bought Rova-T as the lead product of cancer-drug company Stemcentrx in 2016, highlighting the drug's potential alongside four other new compounds for diseases like breast cancer, ovarian cancer and non-small cell lung cancer.

The deal was valued at about $5.8 billion in cash and stock, with investors eligible for up to $4 billion more if the company met certain terms.

Read more: AbbVie spent billions on a buzzy Silicon Valley cancer drug company. Now Wall Street's calling the deal a 'dud.'

But AbbVie already said earlier this year that it wouldn't try for faster-than-usual approval in one of those areas, third-line relapsed/refractory small cell lung cancer.

A data release in June also left Wall Street analysts less-than-impressed, Business Insider previously reported, though company executives said then that they remained encouraged about Rova-T's potential in small-cell lung cancer and other areas.

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