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Bayer, Onyx’s Liver Cancer Drug Nexavar Slows Rare Thyroid Tumor

Bayer AG and Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s drug Nexavar gave thyroid cancer patients a five-month respite from their tumors getting worse in a study that will be used to request broader marketing approval for the medicine.

Patients who got Nexavar didn’t see their cancer progress for a median of 10.8 months, compared to 5.8 months for those who took placebo in the 417-patient study, researchers said today at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s meeting in Chicago. The study hasn’t reached conclusions yet about whether Nexavar helped the patients live longer.

If cleared for sale to thyroid cancer patients, Nexavar would be the first drug in its class approved for the disease, making it easier to get insurer reimbursement for the treatment, said Keith Bible, chairman of the endocrine malignancies disease-oriented group at the Mayo Clinic. Some five percent of thyroid cancer patients may benefit from the drug, he said.

“The impact on patient care could be considerable,” said Bible, who wasn’t involved in the study. Rates of thyroid cancer seem to be rising, he said.

There will probably be about 60,220 new cases in the U.S. this year, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Thyroid cancer sales could generate an additional 150 million euros ($194.5 million) for Nexavar within three to four years, according to Andreas Fibig, head of Bayer’s pharmaceuticals division. Known generically as sorafenib, Nexavar is already sold as a treatment for liver and kidney cancer.

Bayer said it plans to request marketing approval in thyroid cancer soon in the U.S. and Europe.

The company is aiming for 3 billion euros in peak annual sales from its oncology franchise within five to six years, Fibig said. Bayer’s portfolio also includes colon and liver cancer medicine Stivarga and Alpharadin, a therapy for bone metastases in prostate cancer.

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