June 24, 2009 / 4:00 PM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 1-Novartis drug combo cuts pancreatic tumour size

* Afinitor and Sandostatin LAR promising in Phase II trial

* Afinitor is one of Novartis’s most important new drugs

(Adds further details)

ZURICH, June 24 (Reuters) - A combination of two drugs from Novartis AG NOVN.VX cut the size of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours in more than 80 percent of patients in a mid-stage study, the Swiss group said on Wednesday. Patients who received a once-daily pill Afinitor in combination with Sandostatin LAR had no progression in their disease for a median of 16.7 months, according to results from the so-called RADIANT-1 study of 160 patients.

Afinitor is one of Novartis’s most important new drugs and is being tested for use against several different types of cancer, which could help it achieve sales of more than $1 billion annually.

It works by blocking a protein known as mTOR and disrupting the growth, division and metabolism of cancer cells and is a key plank of Novartis’s strategy to expand in cancer drugs.

A late stage trial evaluating Afinitor as a potential treatment option for patients with pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours is already underway, Novartis said.

Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours are an uncommon form of the disease, a cancer formed from cells that have roles both in the endocrine and nervous systems

At the time of diagnosis nearly 60 percent of all patients have advanced disease, meaning the cancer has spread to other parts of the body and has become more difficult to treat.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Afinitor earlier this year for use in advanced kidney cancer and European regulators have also recommended it. Novartis expects a filing for use in neuroendocrine tumours within the next year.

Sandostatin LAR is already approved for symptom control in certain types of neuroendocrine tumours. (Reporting by Sam Cage; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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