AstraZeneca shares jump after cancer trial success

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Successful trials of one of AstraZeneca’s new cancer drugs provided a further boost to hopes it could help reverse years of revenue declines, sending shares in the group to the top of the FTSE 100 on Friday morning.

Phase 3 trials showed durvalumab, under the brand name Imfinzi, significantly reduced the risk of disease worsening or death among patients with stage 3 non-small cell lung cancer who had not progressed after standard treatments.

AstraZeneca said Imfinzi is the first immuno-oncology medicine to show a “superior” impact on progression-free survival rates in this setting. The company said it will work with regulatory authorities to introduce Imfinzi “as soon as possible”.

At publication time, shares in the group were up 5 per cent, to £49.84.

Durvalumab has been tipped for blockbuster status – drugs with annual sales of at least $1bn – and is seen as a cornerstone of the company’s efforts to return to growth after patent expiries on its older medicines hit sales.

Last week the US Food and Drug Administration granted the drug its first approval for use in patients with advanced bladder cancer. However, investors have been watching closely for news on its use for treating lung cancer, where AstraZeneca’s pipeline is more advanced relative to its rivals.

Lung cancer is also a much larger market. Stage three lung cancer is estimated to affect around 100,000 patients a year across the G7 countries, with about half of patients developing tumors that cannot be completely removed through surgery.

The company is still awaiting the results of another key lung cancer trial that will test durvalumab as a “first-line” therapy, meaning it is the first treatment given for a disease.

Sean Bohen, AstraZeneca chief medical officer, said:

These are highly encouraging results for patients with locally-advanced lung cancer for whom surgery is not an option. We look forward to working with regulatory authorities around the world to bring Imfinzi to lung cancer patients as soon as possible. Alongside this, we continue to explore Imfinzi’s full potential.

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