Lilly Gains on Cancer Drug

Eli Lilly ( LLY) shares rose 1.8% on Tuesday after a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel gave Alimta, its lung cancer treatment, a positive recommendation.

The company announced that the agency's oncologic drugs advisory committee, which issues recommendations to the FDA on potential cancer fighters, unanimously endorsed Alimta for accelerated approval as a second-line treatment of non-small-cell lung cancer. Each year, 80% of the 174,000 people diagnosed with lung cancer have the non-small-cell variety.

In reaction to the endorsement, shares of Lilly rose $1.09 to $63.23.

The advisory panel issued its recommendation after a large phase III study of Alimta showed that it performed well as a single-agent therapy in patents who have received chemotherapy when compared with Taxotere, an approved cancer treatment from Aventis ( AVE). In the study, patients who took Alimta had similar survival benefits and response rates but fewer side effects than those who took Taxotere.

"The committee's unanimous recommendation is a major step forward for patients being treated for non-small-cell lung cancer in the second-line setting," said Paolo Paoletti, vice president of oncology clinical research at Lilly. "Study data show that Alimta's effectiveness is comparable to Taxotere, is conveniently administered and is better tolerated."

Alimta has already been approved by the FDA as a treatment for malignant pleural mesothelioma, a cancer often associated with asbestos exposure, when used in combination with cisplatin.

The indication for use as a non-small cell lung cancer treatment would be Alimta's second approved use and its first as a stand-alone drug. Australian officials have already approved Alimta as a treatment.

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