Bayer's Nexavar shows promise in lung cancer study

FRANKFURT, May 15 (Reuters) - Bayer's BAYG.DE cancer drug hopeful Nexavar showed promise as a lung-cancer treatment in a Phase II study, the ASCO association of U.S. oncologists said on its Website on Friday. The authors of the Phase II study, which will be presented in detail at ASCO's annual meeting at the end of this month, concluded that the combination of Nexavar and Roche's ROG.VX approved lung cancer drug Tarceva "is safe and has clinically significant anti-tumour activity."

The trial involved 50 lung-cancer patients whose tumours had started spreading and which had not previously received chemotherapy.

Nexavar’s potential use against lung tumours, the most common form of cancer, was thrown into doubt in February last year when a Phase III study was halted because the pill failed to show the desired effects.

Bayer and development partner Onyx Pharmaceuticals ONXX.O said at the time they would have to analyse the study data to determine what impact it would have on other ongoing Nexavar lung cancer trials.

Every year, more than 1.3 million people are diagnosed with lung cancer globally.

A Bayer spokeswoman declined to comment on the ASCO data on Friday but said the company was looking forward to results to be presented at the upcoming meeting that help it understand the potential of Nexavar in combating difficult-to-treat tumour types.

Further Nexavar data on liver, kidney, thyroid and gastric cancers as well as leukaemia will be presented at the ASCO meeting.

Nexavar, which is approved for liver and kidney cancer in more than 70 countries, is Bayer’s most promising pharmaceutical -- alongside anti-blood-clotting pill Xarelto -- with an annual sales potential of more than 2 billion euros ($2.71 billion).

Bayer is currently testing the Nexavar pill against lung cancer in a further two studies in Phase II and III, respectively. Three phases are usually required before a drug can be filed for regulatory approval.

The study data released on Friday showed that 76 percent of the patients treated with the drug combination did not see their cancer worsen within six weeks. The study did not include a control group. (Reporting by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Rupert Winchester)