Pfizer's targeted Xalkori outshines chemo in trial of untreated lung cancer patients


Pfizer ($PFE) said its targeted cancer drug Xalkori trounced chemotherapy in a trial of previously untreated patients with a particular type of lung cancer. The study showed for the first time that up-front treatment with Xalkori staves off cancer growth better than other treatments in patients whose tumors test positive for ALK-gene abnormalities.

Xalkori (crizotinib) was hustled to market in 2011 under the FDA's accelerated approval program for patients who are ALK-positive and whose cancer has spread beyond the lungs. A previous Phase III study showed that the drug significantly delayed cancer growth in patients who had previously received chemo, but the newest data indicates that Xalkori is equally effective as a first-line treatment, Pfizer said.

Some analysts are predicting the new data will boost Xalkori's sales, which are currently about $350 million a year. Cowen and Co. estimates the drug's annual sales will peak at $1 billion by 2020, according to Reuters.

Turning Xalkori into a blockbuster will be vital for Pfizer, which has suffered lately from expiring patents on top sellers such as its cholesterol drug Lipitor. The company's revenues fell from $54 billion in 2012 to $51.6 billion last year.

In releasing the latest data on Xalkori, Pfizer reminded the oncology community how important it is to test newly diagnosed lung cancer patients for the ALK mutation, so proper treatment regimens can be established up front. In 2012, Pfizer inked a collaboration deal with Ventana Medical Systems, a unit of Roche ($RHHBY), to develop the test that identifies non-small cell lung cancer patients with the ALK mutation.

"It is clear that a multidisciplinary collaborative approach to molecular testing is required in order to deliver those results on time, which in fact is the foundation of personalized medicine in lung cancer," said Tony Mok, professor of clinical oncology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, in Pfizer's release.

- here's Pfizer's press release
- read more at Reuters

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