AstraZeneca sharpens Imfinzi's lung cancer edge with big survival win

AstraZeneca already has an OK to market Imfinzi for stage 3 lung cancer that can't be surgically removed. But just-unveiled survival data will strengthen its case—and its lead over its immuno-oncology rivals.

After unveiling in May that Imfinzi had extended patients’ lives in a phase 3 trial dubbed Pacific, the British drugmaker followed up with details this week, outlining results that showed the drug could reduce the risk of death by 32% compared with standard-of-care treatment. And it did so regardless of patients’ levels of biomarker PD-L1.

That’s a big number, especially considering that “the five-year survival rate in this setting has historically been around 15%" after chemo and radiation therapy, lead study investigator Scott Antonia said in a statement, adding that “the significant survival benefit observed using the Pacific regimen provides confidence and clear rationale for a new standard of care.”

AstraZeneca's drug is already the only member of the PD-1/PD-L1 class to prove a benefit in the lung cancer maintenance setting. It picked up an FDA approval in February after showing that Imfinzi could ward off disease progression for 11.2 months longer than placebo could. And it’ll be at least a couple of years before any of its I-O nemeses—which are focusing much of their attention on the previously untreated NSCLC market—come up with competing results.

RELATED: AstraZeneca's Imfinzi survival win shores up the one lung cancer advantage it has

With that head start—plus the new survival results—in mind, analysts have predicted Imfinzi could generate more than $1 billion in the indication.

RELATED: AstraZeneca gains major I-O ground with Imfinzi lung cancer maintenance stunner

“OS data on the label will further reinforce Imfinzi’s position as the leading I-O therapy in this setting, with any potential competitor data still some way off,” Jefferies analyst Ian Hilliker wrote to clients in May.