Colorectal Cancer Drug From Otsuka Extends Survival, Says Study

An experimental cancer pill from Otsuka Holdings Co. that used an agent developed more than 50 years ago helped extend the survival of patients whose colorectal cancer had spread, a study found.

Patients taking the drug called TAS-102 lived an average of 7.1 months, compared with 5.3 months for those who received a placebo, according to the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The drug was also associated with few serious side effects, the researchers found.

The results were particularly meaningful as it was effective for more than half of the enrolled patients who had failed to respond to a standard class of chemotherapy such as Roche Holding AG’s Xeloda, according to the authors of the research, led by scientists at the Boston-based Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. It may have a different pathway to standard medicines and serve as an alternative, they said.

The trial involved 800 patients in Europe, the U.S., Australia and Japan, and was a Phase 3 study. The drug developed by Taiho Pharmaceutical Co., a unit of Tokyo-based Otsuka, is in regulatory review in the U.S. and Europe. It has been sold in Japan since May 2014. The data was previously announced at the ESMO 16th World Congress on Gastrointestinal Cancer in Barcelona in June last year.

The drug is made of two agents, including trifluridine discovered in the 1950s.

Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer deaths worldwide, after lung, liver and stomach cancers, and it killed 694,000 people in 2012, according to the World Health Organization.

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