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R&D news in brief

Our weekly round-up of R&D news in brief

Recent news from the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting:

Tykerb effective for advanced breast cancer, says study
GlaxoSmithKline's (GSK) experimental drug, Tykerb (lapatinib), is effective at treating advanced breast cancer in certain women who no longer benefit from standard therapies such as Herceptin, according to new research. The drug has been designed for the 20-25 per cent of breast cancer patients with aggressive tumours that produce large amounts of the protein, HER2. When taken with a standard chemotherapy treatment in a clinical study of 321 patients, Tykerb nearly doubled the time to 8.5 months before the average patient's cancer worsened, compared to chemotherapy alone. GSK plans to submit the drug for regulatory approval in the US and Europe by the end of this year.

Avastin-Tarceva combo prolongs survival
Results from a 120-patient phase II study suggest that combining cancer drugs Avastin and Tarceva can prolong survival in patients with advanced lung cancer, compared to chemotherapy alone. The preliminary results showed a median progression-free survival of 4.8 months in the Avastin plus chemotherapy arm, 4.4 months in the Avastin plus Tarceva arm, and 3 months in the chemotherapy-alone arm. Avastin, made by Roche's US unit, Genentech, is the first cancer drug designed to cut off blood supply to tumours while Tarceva is a product of Genentech and OSI. ìWe are encouraged that these findings support the hypothesis that combining therapies that target different cancer pathways, such as angiogenesis and epidermal growth factor receptor signalling, may improve progression-free survival, possibly without the use of chemotherapy,î said Genentech chief medical officer, Hal Barron.

Sutent shrinks kidney and lung tumours
New data has shown that Pfizer's Sutent (sunitinib) doubles progression-free survival in patients with advanced kidney cancer as a first-line treatment when compared to the current standard treatment, interferon-alpha. The late-stage trial of the drug showed the median time before which a patient's disease progressed was 11 months compared to five months in the group taking standard interferon therapy. The response rate, a measure of tumour shrinkage, was 31 per cent in the Sutent group compared to 6 per cent in the interferon group. In a separate study, Sutent shrank tumours in 51 per cent of patients in the advanced stages of lung cancer, for whom other forms of treatment did not work.

BMS drug effective in patients resistant to Gleevec
Interim data from a randomized phase II study of Bristol-Myers Squibb's dasatinib have shown that it offers benefits to patients resistant to Novartis' Gleevec (imatinib). ìDasatinib is an effective alternative to 800mg daily imatinib in patients who do not respond to 400-600mg daily dosing of imatinib,î said lead investigator, Neil Shah. ìNotably, the percentage of patients showing a complete cytogenetic response to dasatinib was 21 per cent compared to 8 per cent for higher-dose imatinib.î A US Food and Drug Administration advisory committee has recommended that dasatinib should be approved for the treatment of certain types of leukaemia, voting in favour of accelerated approval.

30th September 2008

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