Sanofi Plots Cancer Comeback With First New Drug in Seven Years

Sanofi was a spectator during the last wave of cancer breakthroughs. The French drugmaker is counting on its first new tumor drug in seven years to help make it a contender in the next one.

A treatment Sanofi is developing with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. could go on sale by the end of the year, said Joanne Lager, head of oncology development at the Paris-based company. The immunotherapy known as cemiplimab is aimed at a form of skin cancer, but could eventually be a candidate for one of the deadliest forms of the disease: lung tumors.

Sanofi still sees an opportunity in that field even as Merck & Co.’s Keytruda pulls ahead, Lager said in an interview in Paris. The French drugmaker on Wednesday acknowledged that it missed out on the first tide of revolutionary new medicines, falling behind others such as Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Roche Holding AG and AstraZeneca Plc in the booming class of cancer drugs that harness the immune system.

“We’re not expecting to be able to beat Keytruda, but we think there are a lot of patients with lung cancer and they deserve to have more than one option,” she said. “We think there’s room for more than one to play in that space.”

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