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AstraZeneca begins lung cancer trial

Published on 09/05/14 at 10:12am

AstraZeneca, currently at the centre of a £63 billion bid from US giant Pfizer, has begun a late-stage trial of an immunotherapy for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

MEDI4736 is just one such product being developed by MedImmune, AstraZeneca’s biologics R&D arm, and illustrates part of the reason why Pfizer is so interested in the Anglo-Swedish group.

The human monoclonal antibody blocks signals from the programmed cell death ligand 1 (PD-L1) – signals which help tumours avoid detection by the body’s immune system.

If it works, it means the immune system will be empowered to attack the cancer and the PACIFIC trial, which is the first in the Phase III NSCLC programme, will look at progression-free survival and overall survival versus placebo.

The patient population in the trial – planned to be 702 people at 100 sites worldwide – has locally advanced (Stage III), unresectable NSCLC and have had chemoradiotherapy with no evidence of tumour progression.

Estimates suggest that a third of patients are at Stage III when they are diagnosed, and the cancer spreads in most cases even if there has been an initial benefit from chemoradiotherapy.

MEDI4736’s safety profile has already been established in Phase I, and updated information from early stage studies will be presented at this year’s American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago at the end of the month.

“This is a significant milestone for AstraZeneca and MedImmune,” said Briggs Morrison, executive VP, global medicines development at AstraZeneca.

“MEDI4736 is an important molecule in our immuno-oncology portfolio and its entry into Phase III clinical trials is further evidence of our commitment to invest in distinctive science in our core therapy areas, and to rapidly progress our immuno-oncology pipeline,” he adds.

That pipeline also includes tremelimumab, MEDI0680 and MEDI6469, which MedImmune is looking at both as monotherapies and combinations across a range of tumour types.

Lung cancer caused 1.59 million deaths in 2012 – which is nearly a fifth of all deaths from cancer, according to figures from the World Health Organisation – and NSCLC is the most common form.

Adam Hill

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