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Bayer’s Nexavar May Have Prolonged Life in Some Lung Patients

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Sept. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Bayer AG’s liver cancer drug Nexavar may have prolonged the lives of lung cancer patients with a certain genetic mutation, though it didn’t improve overall survival rates in a study presented today.

The trial missed its main goal of prolonging life among patients with advanced lung cancer, Bayer said in May. A subsequent analysis showed that among subjects with a mutation in a gene called EGFR, those receiving Nexavar survived twice as long as those who got a placebo, according to data presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology’s meeting in Vienna today.

That finding is “a great breakthrough that merits validation in a prospective study,” Rafael Rosell, a cancer doctor from the Hospital Germans Trias i Pujol in Spain, said in a statement. He wasn’t involved in the study.

Bayer is discussing the findings with the scientific community and hasn’t decided whether to pursue a trial of Nexavar in patients with the mutation, said Dimitris Voliotis, vice president of clinical oncology for the Leverkusen, Germany-based drugmaker.

“This could be a chance finding,” Voliotis said in a telephone interview yesterday. “The data are provocative and interesting. To be able to have an answer to the question whether Nexavar or any other drug works in EGFR mutant populations, you really have to do a prospective trial. We haven’t decided on that yet.”

The study, led by Luis Paz-Ares at the Virgen del Rocio University Hospital in Seville, Spain, tested Nexavar among 703 lung cancer patients whose disease had progressed after treatment with two or three other drugs. Those receiving Nexavar survived for a median of 248 days, compared with 253 days among those getting a placebo.

Bayer said in May that the trial, dubbed Mission, had missed its main goal, without providing further details. The company doesn’t plan to apply for regulatory approval of Nexavar as a third or fourth-line lung cancer treatment, Voliotis said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Simeon Bennett in Geneva at sbennett9@bloomberg.net

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

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