A doctor is seen examining the X-ray images of a patient’s pacemaker in the radiography department at a hospital. (Photographer: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg)

AstraZeneca Delays Final Results of Failed Lung-Cancer Trial

(Bloomberg) -- AstraZeneca Plc delayed the final results from its Mystic lung-cancer trial, which failed last year, to collect more data on how long patients live with and without the company’s treatment.

The study is continuing “to ensure we have the sufficient number of events to appropriately analyze overall survival,” Karen Birmingham, a company spokeswoman, said in an email. The final analysis, expected in the first half, will be released in the second half instead, the drugmaker said in a statement Monday.

Lung cancers, the world’s most common and deadly tumors, have become a key battleground among companies including Astra, Merck & Co., Roche Holding AG and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. that are racing to develop life-saving immune therapies. Astra shares fell 15 percent on July 27 when it said its two-drug combination, when added to chemotherapy, didn’t slow the disease’s progression more than the standard therapy alone.

Astra has recovered most of that value since, and the shares were little changed on Monday in London.

Cancer drug trials are usually focused on determining whether and how long a treatment stops tumors from growing. Astra has suggested that its combination might succeed in lengthening patients’ lives -- a measure called overall survival to be unveiled in the second half -- without immediately shrinking tumors because immune therapies take effect more slowly than conventional medicines.

Astra’s combination includes an experimental drug and Imfinzi, an immune treatment which has since been approved in bladder cancer and lung tumors that can’t be removed surgically and haven’t responded to standard therapy.

The delay “raises the risks of a failure further, in our view,” Sam Fazeli, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst, said in a note. “But there’s little in Imfinzi sales expectations for Mystic’s success.”

The Mystic trial is being conducted in 167 centers across 17 countries. Company officials don’t know how many deaths have occurred in either arm of the study and announced the delay early because of “strong market interest” in the trial, Birmingham said.

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