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Celgene's Abraxane authorised by Health Canada

Drug can now be used as first-line treatment for metastatic pancreatic cancer

Celgene's Abraxane (paclitaxel)Celgene has been given a boost by the Canadian regulator, which has approved Abraxane as a first-line treatment in metastatic pancreatic cancer.

The manufacturer has argued that there is a strong unmet need, with Abraxane (paclitaxel) plus gemcitabine the first new approved therapy in this disease area in 18 years.

Health Canada based its decision on the phase III MPACT trial, results of which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine last October.

Dr Malcolm J. Moore, director of the McCain Centre for Pancreatic Cancer at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and an MPACT investigator, said: “This is a cancer where there are few effective treatments and the first-line approval of Abraxane in combination with gemcitabine represents an important advance.

“This approval will certainly have an impact on the way physicians manage this disease in the future,” he continued. “Pancreatic cancer is a tough one to deal with - patients are desperate and physicians are on the lookout for new advances.”

Data showed that treatment with Abraxane plus gemcitabine pushed median overall survival up to 8.5 months, compared with 6.7 months in patients receiving only gemcitabine.

The combination's approval follows the granting of licences in the US, Europe, Argentina and Australia.

Around 4,700 Canadians are expected to be diagnosed with the disease this year - and although survival rates in some other cancers have improved over the past decade, those for pancreatic cancer have not followed suit.

Taking an average across all stages of the disease, just 8 per cent of sufferers in Canada can expect to live for five years after diagnosis - and this figure plummets to 2 per cent when metastatic forms of the disease are singled out.

Laurie Ellies, co-founder of Pancreatic Cancer Canada, explained: “For a person diagnosed with metastatic disease it can be a question of weeks.”

The disease is the fourth-leading cause of cancer-related death in Canada, with adenocarcinoma - a sub-type of exocrine tumours - accounting for 95 per cent of cases.

Article by
Adam Hill

7th August 2014

From: Sales

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