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U.S. Cancer Doctors Back Genetic Tests for Lung Tumor Patients

April 11 (Bloomberg) -- Patients with the most common form of lung cancer should be genetically tested prior to treatment to predict whether they might be helped by Roche Holding AG’s Tarceva and AstraZeneca Plc’s Iressa tumor medicines, a U.S. physicians’ group said.

The testing should be carried out on patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer who are being considered for initial treatment with drugs that target the EGFR gene mutation, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, which has 30,000 members. The provisional opinion is based on the result of five recent clinical trials, the group said today in an e-mailed statement.

Patients with a mutant form of the EGFR gene may benefit from both Tarceva and Iressa, studies have shown. Roche, of Basel, Switzerland, said in November it would develop a companion diagnostic test for Tarceva to identify EGFR mutations. AstraZeneca said in July 2009, after Iressa won European approval, that it would market a test for the mutations. Neither of the two medicines has won U.S. approval as an initial therapy.

“Non-small-cell lung cancer is really a collection of genetically distinct diseases,” Vicki Keedy, co-chair of a panel set up by ASCO and assistant professor of medicine at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville, Tennessee, said in the statement. “We want to treat patients with drugs that target the molecular drivers of their specific tumors, rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach.”

Drug Sales

AstraZeneca, based in London, had revenue of $393 million from Iressa last year. Roche’s Tarceva generated sales of 1.33 billion Swiss francs ($1.46 billion) in 2010.

Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers, striking more than 1.35 million people worldwide each year. It’s the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., killing an estimated 157,300 a year, according to the American Cancer Society.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology represents medical professionals who care for cancer patients and focuses on improving access to care and information as well as promoting research into the treatment of tumors.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dermot Doherty in Geneva at ddoherty9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Phil Serafino at pserafino@bloomberg.net

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