AstraZeneca wins FDA breakthrough status for key cancer drug

A sign is seen at an AstraZeneca site in Macclesfield, central England May 19, 2014. REUTERS/Phil Noble

LONDON (Reuters) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted breakthrough therapy designation to AstraZeneca’s biggest new drug hope durvalumab as a treatment in bladder cancer, the drugmaker said on Wednesday.

The experimental medicine is a so-called PD-L1 therapy that fights cancer by boosting the immune system.

Breakthrough therapy designation expedites the development and review of medicines intended to treat serious or life-threatening diseases.

Durvalumab is also being developed as a treatment for lung, head and neck, gastric, pancreatic, liver and blood cancers. It faces competition from rival products made by Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck and Roche.

Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Mark Potter