Madrid, Spain. Sept 11th. Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca PLC (AZN.LN) today, Monday, presented successful trial data at a European cancer conference for its lead IO drug Imfinzi. The reports to the European Society of Medical Oncology Congress in Madrid, Spain, showed positive results from two trials for lung cancer treatments. The drug maker said a study of its key lung cancer treatment showed stronger than expected results in patients whom had not progressed following chemotherapy.
It said a Phase III Pacific trial of Imfinzi improved progression-free survival by more than 11 months compared with standard of care. AstraZeneca added that the trial continues to evaluate the other primary endpoint, overall survival.
The company also said a Phase III Flaura trial of Tagrisso reduced the risk of progression or death by more than half, with consistent benefit across all subgroups, including patients with and without brain metastases. Tagrisso also showed median progression-free survival of 18.9 months, compared with 10.2 months for the current standard of care, AstraZeneca said.
In the multi-billion-dollar market for a new group of medicines that unleash the human immune system on cancers, AstraZeneca PLC has been an afterthought. Lagging in the race to gain market share in immuno-oncology (IO) drugs, Astra made a big bet on a combination of two IO medicines to treat lung cancer.
While rivals have focused on later-stage lung-cancer patients, Astra’s Imfinzi trial looked at patients with mid-stage disease. A successful trial in this niche gives Astra a shot at a near-term FDA approval for Imfinzi in these patients and a market segment to itself.
The market for cancer drugs is complicated. The FDA can limit or grant patient access based on disease severity, other medicines a patient has tried, particular genetic mutations, or several such criteria at once. Amid this complexity, there are plenty of niches where a smart company can find success. Astra found one in lung cancer.
Analysts believe using Imfinzi in so-called stage III lung cancer opens up an annual sales opportunity worth around $2 billion. Importantly, AstraZeneca has a lead of two to three years over rivals in this particular area.
AstraZeneca plc shares rose sharply Monday after the drugmaker said a study of its key lung cancer treatment showed stronger-than-expected results in patients whom had not progressed following chemotherapy
AstraZeneca shares were marked 1.9% higher in the opening minutes of London trading to change hands at 4,872 pence each, the highest since July 27, when the shares plunged 15.4% after the company told investors that Imfinzi had failed to show an improvement in progression free survival for first line lung cancer when administered as a combination with tremelimumab.
Photo: AstraZeneca drugs show positive trial results
The results were also published online in the New England Journal of Medicine.