ESMO: AstraZeneca's targeted lung cancer med Tagrisso slashes CNS recurrence by 82%

CG image of AstraZeneca's HQ
AstraZeneca is awaiting an FDA nod for Tagrisso in the adjuvant setting. (AstraZeneca)

Once EGFR-mutated lung cancer spreads to the brain, a patient’s prognosis dramatically worsens. And that’s what AstraZeneca’s Tagrisso is trying to prevent in post-surgery patients.

Turns out, the drug can do it pretty well. It cut the risk of disease recurrence in the brain by 82% in the phase 3 Adaura trial, according to an analysis presented Saturday at the European Society for Medical Oncology’s virtual congress.

The results show “Tagrisso can dramatically change the course of the disease by actually having an effect on CNS,” said Dave Fredrickson, executive vice president and global head of AstraZeneca’s oncology business unit.

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To AstraZeneca, the results make “biologic sense” given that Tagrisso has already shown it can cross the blood-brain barrier in patients with metastatic disease. But “it’s incredibly important that it’s translating into the early setting, where it’s just so important that we can keep the disease from spreading to the brain,” Fredrickson said.

The CNS results follow the primary presentation of Adaura, which showed at this year's meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology that Tagrisso could cut the risk of disease recurrence or death by 83% compared with placebo in the the adjuvant setting, or patients treated after surgery.

“I would say that results in general on Tagrisso have been some of the most impressive that we’ve ever seen in an adjuvant setting,” Fredrickson said. “We did not design a target product profile with the expectation of seeing those kinds of results,” he added. “It’s even better than what we had hoped for.”

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Industry watchers expect the med to become the standard of care once it wins an FDA green light to move earlier into treatment; it’s currently the standard of care for previously untreated metastatic patients. Once Tagrisso does get its adjuvant nod, SVB Leerink analysts think it could rack up an additional $5.6 billion, bringing peak worldwide sales to $16 billion.