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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

AstraZeneca says key lung cancer drug improved survival

An AstraZeneca logo.   (Jason Alden/Bloomberg)
By Ashleigh Furlong Washington Post

AstraZeneca Plc’s lung cancer drug improved survival in patients with a highly aggressive form of the disease, becoming the first immunotherapy to help these patients live longer, the company said.

Imfinzi showed statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvement in both slowing the progression of the disease and overall survival, according to initial results from an advanced study.

Shares of Astra fell as much as 1.8% in London before paring back slightly. The stock is down about 9% in the past year.

Limited-stage small cell lung cancer typically affects one lung or one side of the chest and has a very poor prognosis, with just 15% to 30% of patients living for five years after their diagnosis.

This is the first trial to mark a “breakthrough for patients with this devastating disease,” said the principal investigator in the study Suresh Senan. He said many patients face disease recurrence and, until now, the standard of care had remained unchanged for decades.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among men and women, accounting for about 20% of all cancer deaths.

Imfinzi is already approved for several other indications including non-small cell lung cancer that is locally advanced and cannot be removed by surgery. It is Astra’s second best-selling cancer drug after Tagrisso.

Chief Executive Officer Pascal Soriot is reaping the benefits of his bet on cancer, with Astra having invested heavily in this area, including through collaborations with companies such as Daiichi Sankyo Co.

The trial results follow “a raft of positive readouts and approvals for Imfinzi” that have stimulated a strong uptick in sales, said Shore Capital’s Sean Conroy. However, he said given that forecasts had worked in Imfinzi’s uses in lung cancer “we don’t anticipate any significant upgrades” based on this data alone.