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Drug targeting untreatable lung cancer 'shrinks tumours'

19 May 2014
Appeared in BioNews 754

British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has presented trial data from an experimental lung cancer drug, which, along with a line-up of new drugs, it hopes will bolster the company's value amid rejected takeover bids from US drugs rival, Pfizer.

The drug, AZD9291, targets a genetic mutation that allows tumours to evade current treatments. Data produced from a phase I clinical trial involving 199 patients showed that the treatment reduced the size of tumours in 51 percent of patents, rising to 64 percent of patients with a certain mutation, T790M.

T790M develops in around half of tumours that have become resistant to a group of existing drugs, known as epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitors. The patients recruited to the trial had lung cancers that had worsened despite receiving treatment using EGFR inhibitors.

The company hopes to accelerate a phase II trial currently underway. The treatment has already been granted 'breakthrough' status in the USA for use as a second-line therapy for certain patients with lung cancer.

AstraZeneca is also reporting on another cancer immunotherapy drug, MEDI4736, currently moving into phase III of testing, which aims to counter a tumour's ability to avoid the immune system, as well as other new treatments.

Together, the company hopes these new products will boost its sales by 75 percent to $45 million by 2023, reports Reuters. AstraZeneca's chief executive, Pascal Soriot, says the data showed accelerated progress of its batch of experimental drugs, which supports its view that the rejected take-over bids by Pfizer had substantially undervalued the company.

'Cancer is one of our key therapeutic area priorities and we continue to make progress in our development pipeline', said Dr Susan Galbraith, head of the Oncology Innovative Medicines Unit, AstraZeneca. 'The encouraging results from the phase I trial on AZD9291 in advanced non-small-cell lung cancer show it is active in patients for whom most therapeutic options have been exhausted'.

'We look forward to seeing further results from this trial and although the compound is still at an early stage, we are now considering accelerating its development'.

AstraZeneca cancer drug hailed as 'great white hope' in fight against illness
The Guardian |  14 May 2014
AstraZeneca girds against Pfizer with new cancer data
The Telegraph |  15 May 2014
AstraZeneca initiates phase III immunotherapy study for MEDI4736 in patients with lung cancer
AstraZeneca (press release) |  8 May 2014
Promising cancer drug data helps AstraZeneca in Pfizer fight
Reuters |  15 May 2014
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