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Healthcare

UPDATE 1-Abbott, Pfizer in pact for lung cancer screening

 * Abbott to make test that looks for gene rearrangement
 * Test linked to cancer therapy being developed by Pfizer
 (Recasts first sentence, adds expert comment and background)
 CHICAGO, Aug 27 (Reuters) - Two big drug companies --
Abbott Laboratories ABT.N and Pfizer Inc PFE.N -- said on
Thursday they were teaming up to match a genetic test for lung
cancer with a new type of drug to treat it. The idea is to
focus the treatment on patients most likely to benefit.
 Abbott Molecular, a unit of Abbott Labs that makes genetic
and other medical tests, said it would develop a test that
determines a patient's genetic status.
 Results would be used to select patients for future
clinical trials of a new oral cancer therapy, known as
PF-02341066, being developed by Pfizer, the world's largest
drugmaker.
 The Abbott test, another step toward personalized medicine
in cancer treatment, will determine the presence of so-called
gene rearrangement in the tissue of non-small cell lung cancer
(NSCLC) tumors.
 Gene rearrangement is a process in cells that can
contribute to the transformation of a normal cell into a
cancerous one. It is found in lung cancer tumors and a wide
variety of other cancers, but not in normal cells. Gene
rearrangement, also called translocation, means the gene is in
a different place than it usually is. If gene rearrangement is
present, the Pfizer therapy is more likely to be effective, an
Abbott spokesman said.
 About 6 to 7 percent of non-small cell lung cancer patients
have the rearrangement and thus would be candidates for
clinical trials of PF-02341066, an investigational therapy that
selectively targets cancer-causing genes implicated in the
progress of many cancers.
"This is taking a totally different approach. Six to seven
percent doesn't sound very impressive, but the total number is
big," said Dr. Adi Gazdar of the University of Texas
Southwestern Medical Center.
 Matching companion tests with new drugs is "the wave of the
future and it will get much bigger with time, particularly as
we get better treatments," Gazdar said. "Each step, no matter
how small, is important. This is a modest step."
 Abbott's test will allow researchers to focus on the
patient population most likely to benefit from the treatment,
Garry Nicholson, general manager of the Pfizer Oncology
Business Unit, said in a prepared statement.
 Working with Abbott, Nicholson added, "we are confident
that we will deliver yet another application of personalized
medicine to address a currently unmet medical need in NSCLC."
 Abbott Molecular President Stafford O'Kelly said Pfizer's
compound "appears to be ideally suited to individualized
therapy."
 Financial terms of the Abbott-Pfizer deal were not
disclosed.
 Last month, the Abbott unit unveiled an agreement with
British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline GSK.L to develop a
companion test to screen for lung cancer. That test will focus
on an antigen called MAGE-A3 and will screen for lung cancer
tumors.
 Drug companies and regulators alike increasingly are
turning to these companion diagnostics -- tests that look for
specific genes or proteins -- as a way to improve the odds that
a high-cost biotechnology drug will work in specific patients.
 AstraZeneca AZN.L stopped most U.S. sales of Iressa in
2004 after it was found to help only 10 percent to 15 percent
of lung cancer patients. But several studies have suggested
that some people -- notably nonsmokers, Asians and women -- did
better on Iressa.
 Lung cancer kills 1.2 million people a year and is the top
cause of cancer death globally.
 (Reporting by Debra Sherman; editing by John Wallace and
Matthew Lewis)


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