AstraZeneca’s Oft-Failed Cancer Combo Succeeds in Lung Trial

(Bloomberg) -- AstraZeneca Plc’s novel combination of cancer treatments succeeded in a final-stage study, showing utility against lung tumors after a string of failures.

Results from the trial of tremelimumab in combination with Imfinzi, an approved cancer drug, and standard chemotherapy showed a statistically significant and meaningful improvement in a measure of cancer progression, AstraZeneca said in a statement.

AstraZeneca has been testing Imfinzi and the combination with tremelimumab in a variety of cancers. In 2017, their failure in a different lung cancer trial sent the shares spiraling downwards. The U.K. drugmaker still has a number of trials of the combination that will report results through 2021.

The new trial, called Poseidon, tested the drugs in non-small-cell lung cancer patients. Imfinzi along with chemotherapy, without tremelimumab, also benefited lung patients. More results from studies of Imfinzi with and without tremelimumab are expected in head and neck, liver and bladder cancer.

The shares rose 0.7% in London. AstraZeneca will submit the results for presentation at a forthcoming medical meeting and plans to share them with health authorities.

What Bloomberg Intelligence Says:

The headline win of AstraZeneca’s Poseidon lung-cancer trial on the progression-free survival (PFS) endpoint isn’t conclusive, given key overall survival (OS) data coming in 2020. While a positive PFS bodes well for the OS, unless there’s significant crossover, only the detailed data could decipher if Imfinzi could win a place in the competitive first-line setting.

Astra Poseidon Lung Win Isn’t Conclusive, Survival Needed: React

Sam Fazeli, BI pharmaceuticals analyst

Chief Executive Officer Pascal Soriot is building AstraZeneca into a cancer juggernaut, devoting more than a third of research and development resources to oncology. The company is also testing Lynparza, approved in breast and ovarian cancers, in a variety of different settings and in combination with an experimental drug.

The 2017 failure of Imfinzi alone and in combination with tremelimumab hit AstraZeneca shares hard as investors questioned Soriot’s strategy. While the company has had numerous other successes since then -- with Imfinzi in an early form of lung cancer, and with Lynparza and top-seller Tagrisso -- the combination had continued to fail in multiple studies.

“It’s taken us five or six years to be where we are” in cancer overall, Soriot said in an interview last week. “I think we’re constantly trying to move the goal posts and improve the standard of care.”

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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