Johnson & Johnson said it would pay up to $1 billion for Aragon Pharmaceuticals and its experimental drugs for prostate cancer, bolstering J&J's role in the field after it acquired another experimental prostate-cancer treatment four years ago that has become a leading brand.
J&J on Monday said Aragon's lead product, called ARN-509, has potential to help patients whose prostate cancer has not yet spread to other parts of the body, as well as patients whose cancer has spread.
By contrast, J&J's blockbuster Zytiga treatment, acquired through its $1 billion purchase of Cougar Biotechnology in 2009, was approved in 2011 only for patients whose cancer has already spread.
The drugs are both meant for patients who fail to benefit from treatments that block testosterone, the male hormone that fuels prostate cancer, but they work through different means.
J&J spokeswoman Kellie McLaughlin said late-stage trials will be needed to assess how ARN-509 would be used. But she said the drug and Zytiga potentially could work well when used in combination because of their slightly different mechanisms of action.
"They might also be studied to see if they can be used sequentially, with patients first taking ARN-509 and then moving on to Zytiga as their disease progresses," McLaughlin said.
Aragon will receive $650 million in cash upfront from J&J under the deal, and a possible second payment of $350 million if ARN-509 meets certain milestones.