* First patient enrolled into Phase III moxetumomab study
* Final-stage studies on olaparib, selumetinib start in H2
* Part of drive by new CEO to speed up pipeline projects
By Ben Hirschler
LONDON, May 16 AstraZeneca has enrolled
the first patient into a final-stage clinical trial of a new
drug for a rare type of leukaemia as the group's new CEO
delivers on a promise to accelerate its oncology programmes.
Britain's second-biggest drugmaker said on Thursday the
Phase III clinical trial would test moxetumomab pasudotox in
patients with hairy cell leukaemia who have not responded to or
have relapsed after standard therapy.
AstraZeneca also announced plans to move two other oncology
drugs - olaparib for ovarian cancer and selumetinib for lung
cancer - into Phase III trials in the second half of 2013.
New Chief Executive Pascal Soriot has made accelerating the
company's cancer drug pipeline a priority as he tries to rebuild
its portfolio of new medicines after past setbacks that have
undermined near-term growth hopes.
The drugmaker badly needs new products to revive its sales
line because its current top sellers have lost, or are about to
lose, patent protection.
Accelerating the drug pipeline means taking more calibrated
risks, according to Menelas Pangalos, head of innovative
"We are becoming more aggressive as a company and less
fearful of taking smart risks," Pangalos told Reuters.
AstraZeneca previously said at an investor day in March that
it expected to start Phase III trials on the three drugs
sometime in 2013. It believes olaparib and selumetinib each have
the potential for peak sales of more than $1 billion a year,
while moxetumomab sales are estimated at up to $1 billion.
Confidence in prospects for the three new cancer drugs has
been building following promising results from initial tests,
more of which are now being made public.
Data on both olaparib and selumetinib are being presented at
the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) congress in
Chicago from May 31 May to June 4 and scientific abstracts, or
brief summaries, from studies involving the drugs were published
on ASCO's website on Thursday ().
Moxetumomab is jumping to Phase III testing in a trial
sponsored by the U.S. National Cancer Institute, after
impressive results in Phase I.