AstraZeneca Drug Shrinks Lung Cancers Typically Hardened by Genetic Mutation

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- AstraZeneca's (AZN) experimental lung cancer drug AZD9291 was effective in more than 60% of patients who no longer respond to currently approved therapies because of a specific genetic mutation in their tumors.

The new and encouraging AZD9291 data come from a phase I study to be presented at the upcoming American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting. ASCO highlighted the AstraZeneca drug in conjunction with the release Wednesday night of thousands of research abstracts ahead of the annual meeting.

AZD9291 is designed to be effective against non-small cell lung cancer containing a genetic mutation known as T790M, which renders tumors resistant to treatment with drugs like Roche's (RHHBY) Tarceva or Boehringer Ingelheim's Gilotrif. Clovis Oncology (CLVS) is developing a similar drug known as CO-1686.

Approximately 15,000 patients in the U.S. have lung cancer containing the T790M mutation.

Both AstraZeneca and Clovis are expected to begin enrolling lung cancer patients this quarter in new, larger clinical trials aimed at getting their respective drugs approved in the U.S. and Europe. Last year, the FDA designated AstraZeneca's AZD9291 as a Breakthrough Therapy.

In the phase I study, 199 patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer no longer responding to one or more current therapies were treated with different doses of AZD9291. Overall, 51% of patients reported significant tumor shrinkage, including confirmed and unconfirmed responses.

A subgroup of 132 patients was tested to determine if their lung cancer harbored the T790M mutation. Of the 89 patients found to be T790M positive, the AZD9291 response rate was 64%.

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