Europe approves AstraZeneca thyroid cancer drug

LONDON (Reuters) - European authorities have approved AstraZeneca's AZN.L new thyroid cancer pill Caprelsa, or vandetanib, confirming its position as a niche treatment for some patients.

The green light from the European Commission, announced by the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker on Tuesday, had been expected following a recommendation from experts at the European Medicines Agency in November. It won U.S. approval last April.

Vandetanib was once seen as a potential $1 billion (630 million pound) plus blockbuster for AstraZeneca but suffered a major setback after failing to extend survival in patients with lung cancer.

The drug is now targeted at treating patients with non-operable advanced medullary thyroid cancer (MTC), which accounts for 5 to 10 percent of thyroid cancers.

It is not expected to be a major seller and analysts expect it to do little replace declining sales of other major AstraZeneca drugs, such as the antipsychotic Seroquel which is about to go off patent.

Analysts, on average, forecast worldwide sales of Caprelsa at $128 million in 2016, according to consensus forecasts on Thomson Reuters Pharma.

Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Hans-Juergen Peters