Novartis' Afinitor shrinks tumors in 33% of patients

Shares of Novartis were buoyed by the news that its experimental cancer drug Afinitor cut the size of tumors by half or more in a third of patients recruited for a mid-stage study. And Novartis said the data helped convince researchers to launch a late-stage study testing Afinitor (everolimus) tablets in patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.

Analysts say that Afinitor is one of Novartis' most exciting cancer therapies in the clinic, with a good shot at becoming a blockbuster revenue producer. And the pharma giant is testing the therapy against a range of cancer types, a common strategy in oncology drug development. One analyst estimated that Afinitor could earn $500 million a year just as a treatment for kidney cancer.

Afinitor blocks the mTOR protein, which helps regulate cancer cells. The data from the Phase II study showed that a third of patients with relapsed NHL and Hodgkin's disease treated with everolimus experienced a 50 percent or greater reduction in tumor size. This 33 percent overall response rate is defined as complete or partial tumor shrinkage. The median time to disease progression for all 145 patients was 4.3 months and the median duration of response for the 48 responders was 6.8 months.

"We continue to see the potential of Afinitor in multiple types of cancer," said Alessandro Riva, MD, executive vice president, global head, Novartis Oncology Development. "These latest data show an antitumor effect in lymphoma that support the rationale for a Phase III study of Afinitor to prevent relapse in patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, where there is a significant unmet medical need."

- read the Novartis release
- check out the story from Reuters

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