ASCO: AstraZeneca pioneer Lynparza scores with Zytiga combo in prostate cancer

AstraZeneca's Lynparza is working its way toward becoming the first PARP inhibitor approved in prostate cancer. (AstraZeneca)

CHICAGO—At last year’s American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting, AstraZeneca posted Lynparza data that would eventually make it the first in its class to break into breast cancer. This time around, it’s trying to grab the same crown in prostate cancer.

The British drugmaker, along with new partner Merck, on Monday touted results showing that adding Lynparza to Johnson & Johnson prostate cancer fighter Zytiga kept disease at bay for longer than Zytiga on its own. The combo staved off disease progression for 13.8 months, versus just 8.2 months for solo Zytiga.

RELATED: AstraZeneca's Lynparza, now in hot PARP battle, posts 42% survival win in breast cancer

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The data are “really quite promising,” Dave Fredrickson, AstraZeneca VP and global head of oncology, told FiercePharma, noting that prostate cancer “is the No. 1 cancer in terms of incidence across the globe.”

“When you think about being a leader in oncology, really having programs in breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer and GI cancers—those are the four largest. To be able to have these data in prostate cancer is incredibly important for us,” Fredrickson added.

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AstraZeneca already leads its PARP competitors—Tesaro’s Zejula and Clovis’ Rubraca—when it comes to FDA approvals, thanks to the breast cancer nod it snagged after unveiling big phase 3 data at last year’s ASCO. And while the most recent prostate cancer results are from phase 2, they set Lynparza up to once again become the first PARP in a brand new market.

AstraZeneca will need big contributions from Lynparza if it hopes to crack into the top tier of cancer sellers, as Fredrickson predicted the company would. “We believe that we’re on a trajectory to be one of the top three global oncology players in the next five years,” he said. While immuno-oncology therapy Imfinzi—which bears a big new indication in lung cancer maintenance—is expected to kick in blockbuster sales, a potential miss in a closely watched first-line lung cancer study could dent its prospects.

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

Meanwhile, AZ’s PARP nemeses were busy at ASCO, too. Tesaro, for one, trumpeted data from a pairing of Zejula and Merck immuno-oncology star Keytruda in triple negative breast cancer that was “certainly in the ballpark of Lynparza,” Evercore ISI analyst Steve Breazzano wrote to clients.  

“The merging … data suggest that combination of PARP + PD-1 potentially may add incremental, and deeper responses, though we’ll be looking for additional data (as well as AZN’s own combination data),” he said.