MediGene drug extends pancreatic cancer survival

LONDON, Sept 16 Tue Sep 16, 2008 4:00am EDT

LONDON, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Patients with inoperable pancreatic cancer live substantially longer when given MediGene's MDGGn.DE experimental drug EndoTAG-1 on top of standard chemotherapy, according to clinical trial results.

EndoTAG-1, the German biotech company's most important pipeline product, has already elicited interest from several large pharmaceutical companies keen to strike a partnership deal.

Results of a mid-stage Phase II trial presented on Tuesday showed patients given the new drug in combination with the older treatment gemcitabine survived up to 13.6 months compared with an average 7.2 months for those on gemcitabine alone.

"These results are the best I have ever seen in palliative treatment in pancreatic cancer," Matthias Loehr from Sweden's Karolinska Institute told the annual meeting of the European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) in Stockholm.

"The results are really excellent and a Phase III study is in the making," he added.

Phase III is the final stage of testing before a new drug is submitted to regulators for approval.

MediGene's drug -- a combination of fat molecules and another cancer drug called paclitaxel -- is designed to destroy new blood vessels that grow around tumours. It does this in a different way to products like Genentech DNA.N and Roche's (ROG.VX) Avastin.

EndoTAG-1 consists of charged particles that bind preferentially to blood vessel cells, after which paclitaxel is released and directly stops blood vessel growth. Paclitaxel, when given conventionally, is not very effective in pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer patients typically have a poor prognosis because the cancer usually causes no symptoms early on. As a result, it is often advanced by the time it is diagnosed.

MediGene believes EndoTAG-1 has the potential to achieve annual sales of more than 1 billion euros ($1.40 billion) a year, if it progresses successfully in clinical development for pancreatic and other types of cancer.

Results of a clinical trial testing the medicine in breast cancer are expected in 2009.

The promising results in pancreatic cancer should help MediGene in negotiations with larger companies interested in marketing the medicines.

People familiar with the matter told Reuters last month that Pfizer (PFE.N), Eli Lilly (LLY.N) and Roche (ROG.VX) had all expressed interest in licensing the drug. Another source said Pfizer was also considering a full takeover of MediGene.

The companies involved declined to comment. (Editing by Sue Thomas)

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