(Reuters) – AstraZeneca’s top-selling drug Tagrisso has been shown to hold back a certain type of lung cancer when diagnosed at an early stage, the British drugmaker said on Thursday, potentially adding billions to its sales potential.
The trial results presented at the virtual American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) conference this week may open up a treatment option to patients diagnosed early enough for the tumour to be surgically removed, and who have a mutation of the so-called EGFR gene, it said.
Giving Tagrisso to those patients cut the risk of the tumour growing back or dying by 79% in a late-stage trial called ADAURA, it added.
Two years after surgery, 89% of the study participants on Tagrisso had been spared a relapse, compared with just 53% in a comparator group on placebo, it added.
The trial’s success was announced in April, two years earlier than expected by Astra, but details were withheld for presentation at the ASCO conference this week.
Revenues from Tagrisso climbed more than 50% to $982 million in the first quarter, mainly from EGFR-mutated lung cancer that has spread to other body parts, driving sales growth in oncology.
The EGFR mutation is found in about a quarter of global lung cancer cases, but the rate in Asia can be more than 40%.
The company will now push for earlier diagnosis of lung cancer, to have more patients benefit from a possible new treatment option, said Astra’s head of oncology drug research and development Jose Baselga.
“It’s not easy, but the benefits of early diagnosis are now very obvious,” he said.
The group will now discuss possible approval for a wider use with global regulators. Analysts have predicted additional sales potential for the drug of $1 billion to $3 billion from the ADAURA trial.
Over the past few years Tagrisso has crowded out an older generation of EGFR inhibitors, Roche’s Tarceva and Astra’s own Iressa.
(Reporting by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Jan Harvey)