Cancer Research UK, Pfizer, AstraZeneca team up for lung cancer trial

The National Lung Matrix trial will enable access to AstraZeneca's, Pfizer's drug libraries, and be conducted at the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit at the University of Birmingham

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LONDON—Cancer Research UK, AstraZeneca and Pfizer have announced a partnership to create a novel clinical trial for patients with advanced lung cancer. The ‘National Lung Matrix’ trial will provide researchers with access to libraries of drugs developed by AstraZeneca and Pfizer, enabling the teams to test several at the same time within a single trial. All three organizations will contribute funding for the program, which will also have support from the National Health Service. The work represents approximately £25 million (roughly $41.9 million).
The trial is expected to be later this year, and will be a multi-drug, genetic marker-directed, non-comparative multi-arm Phase II trial. The Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit, University of Birmingham, will run the trial, with patients to be recruited from hospitals across the United Kingdom via Cancer Research UK’s Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre network.
“This is a very important step forward in the fight against cancer. This partnership is exciting because we’re trying to achieve something that none of us could manage alone – targeting treatments towards the patients who we know are the most likely to benefit. It’s also a program that can uniquely be carried out in the UK, because of our National Health Service and the network of Centres across the country supported by Cancer Research UK,” Dr. Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said in a press release.
“We know that every patient’s cancer is unique, so we’re now moving away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach and instead striving for more personalized treatment,” he continued. “Critically, we are shifting the emphasis from designing a trial around a specific drug, to designing it around selecting from a range of drugs for a specific patient.  This trial will be for lung cancer patients, but we hope that in the future stratified medicine will lead to dramatic improvements for all cancer patients, with more treatment options and a better chance of beating the disease.”
The researchers will use the genetics of sampled lung tumors to identify subgroups of patients who are more likely to benefit from certain drugs due to the specific genetic changes that led to their cancer. They will then monitor for any benefits, such as increased survival, tumor shrinkage or a decline in symptoms. Any drugs that demonstrate potential in these small groups could be fast-tracked into larger trials with patients presenting with the same genetic changes.
“At AstraZeneca, we believe that targeted therapies which address the underlying mechanisms of disease are the future of personalized healthcare. It’s an approach that will allow us to push the boundaries of science and, not only to bring the right treatment to the right patient, but also to uncover new treatments for those who currently have limited options,” Menelas Pangalos, executive vice president of Innovative Medicines and Early Development at AstraZeneca, commented in a statement. “Ultimately, this innovative collaboration will help establish the framework for how patients will be treated in the NHS in the future, giving them a considerably higher chance of receiving an effective drug to tackle their cancer.”
All told, up to 14 medicines could be included over the duration of the trial—up to 12 from AstraZeneca and MedImmune, its biologics research arm, and two from Pfizer. All the medicines target very specific and generally rare mutations.
“As our understanding of cancer biology has evolved, we have learned that targeting the genetic abnormalities within a cancer can lead to meaningful improvements in care for that disease.  Today, the research community is grappling with the most efficient and effective way to conduct clinical trials and deliver new medicines to patients in this new world of stratified medicine.  We believe the innovative design of the National Lung Matrix trial may hold significant potential for patients with advanced lung cancer,” said Dr. Mace Rothenberg, senior vice president, Clinical Development and Medical Affairs, and chief medical officer, Pfizer Oncology.
SOURCE: Cancer Research UK press release

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