* Ramucirumab touted by some as Lilly's next blockbuster
* Trial could help allay concerns raised after breast cancer
* Lilly shares rise 3 pct in early trading
(Adds details, background)
By Esha Dey
Feb 19 An experimental cancer drug developed by
Eli Lilly and Co, touted by some to be the company's
next blockbuster, significantly improved survival rates in lung
cancer patients, sending the company's shares up 3 percent in
Lilly needs new drugs to offset declining sales of its older
drugs as they lose patent protection.
Ramucirumab, designed to treat multiple cancers, has the
potential to generate annual sales of $1.5 billion by 2020,
according to some analysts.
The drug has already been shown be be successful in treating
stomach cancer, and Lilly is waiting for approval from the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration to market it for that disease.
The latest results could help allay some concerns about the
drug after it failed to delay the progression of breast cancer
in a late-stage trial last year.
The late-stage lung cancer trial compared a combination of
ramucirumab and a common chemotherapy drug, docetaxel, with a
combination of a placebo and docetaxel in treating patients with
non-small cell lung cancer.
The trial, known as Revel, showed that ramucirumab
significantly improved overall survival rates as well as
improving survival rates without the cancer worsening.
Lilly did not provide details of the trial results, which it
said would be presented at a scientific meeting.
The company said on Wednesday that it planned to submit the
first application for marketing approval later this year.
Data from two other studies to test the drug's effectiveness
to treat liver and colorectal cancer are expected later this
year, Lilly said.
BMO Capital Markets analyst Alex Arfaei expressed caution
about the latest results.
"We believe Revel needs to show at least (a) 2-3 month
improvement in overall survival to be considered clinically
meaningful," he said in a note.
Ramucirumab, which Lilly acquired through its $6.5 billion
purchase of ImClone Systems Inc in 2008, works by blocking
development of blood vessels that feed tumors - a process known
Lilly's shares were up 3 percent at $56.96 in early trading
on the New York Stock Exchange. The company's shares had risen
just 3 percent in the 52 weeks up to Tuesday's close.
(Reporting by Esha Dey in Bangalore; Editing by Saumyadeb
Chakrabarty and Ted Kerr)