Small survival benefit seen with Astra cancer drug

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NEW YORK, Sep 21 (Reuters) An experimental lung cancer drug being developed by AstraZeneca Plc demonstrated a modest survival benefit in a small mid-stage trial, according to data published on Thursday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Based on results of the study, the Britain-based drugmaker has begun late stage testing of the medicine, vandetanib, in combination with the chemotherapy drug docetaxel, in second-line treatment of non-small cell lung cancer, the company said. Second-line refers to treatment only after a previous therapy has failed.

In the published 127-patient phase 2 study yesterday, 300 milligrams of vandetanib plus docetaxel prolonged median progression free survival by 18.7 weeks. The combination using a 100 mg dose of the Astra drug added an average of 17 weeks, compared to 12 weeks with docetaxel alone.

''Given the poor prognosis in advanced non-small cell lung cancer, an increase in time to disease progression can be meaningful to patients,'' said John Heymach, the study's lead researcher.

The phase 3 program will include about 1,400 patients, the company said. Phase 3 is typically the final stage of human testing before a drug is submitted to regulators for an approval decision.

AstraZeneca, which expects to market the drug under the brand name Zactima if it gains approval, is hoping the experimental medicine will revive its lung cancer franchise following disappointing results with an earlier drug called Iressa.

REUTERS JK RAI0906

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