LONDON, July 28 AstraZeneca has signed
up Roche and Qiagen to develop two separate
diagnostic tests, both using simple blood samples, to identify
patients who will benefit from its lung cancer drugs.
Currently testing patients to see if their tumours contain
genetic mutations that make them suitable for drug treatment
involves collecting a sample of tissue by needle biopsy or
The new tests are based on smart technology that can detect
small fragments of circulating tumour DNA in the plasma taken
from patients' blood.
The collaboration with Qiagen involves developing such a
test to accompany AstraZeneca's established lung cancer pill
Iressa, while the agreement with Roche is for a companion
diagnostic to go with AstraZeneca's experimental successor to
Iressa called AZD9291.
AZD9291 targets a genetic mutation that helps tumours evade
existing treatments and AstraZeneca believes it could sell as
much as $3 billion a year. The mutation, known as T790M,
develops in about half of lung cancers that become resistant to
current epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitors like Iressa.
(Reporting by Ben Hirschler. Editing by Jane Merriman)