AstraZeneca, NCI tap French company to develop companion mobile app for cancer drugs

Pharma giant AstraZeneca ($AZN) and the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) are recruiting French digital healthcare company Voluntis to help develop a companion mobile app for women with ovarian cancer who are undergoing treatment with two of AstraZeneca's cancer drugs, building on AstraZeneca's latest moves in smart technology.

AstraZeneca, the NCI and Voluntis will test the digital support service in three separate clinical trials starting in 2016, the companies said in a statement, seeing whether the mobile app can improve treatment for women who are taking AstraZeneca's Lynparza and cediranib cancer drug combo. The smartphone app links to a web portal that allows doctors and patients to manage side effects such as hypertension and diarrhea, potentially offering an advantage over more time-consuming tracking methods.

"Empowering patients with this smartphone-based app gives them greater control of their treatment and management of their response," Antoine Yver, head of oncology and global medicines development at AstraZeneca, said in a statement. "The support it provides can further reduce medication dose modification and discontinuation rates and help maintain patients on therapy to improve their treatment outcome."

A deal with Voluntis comes as AstraZeneca expands its footprint in the digital technology field. Over the summer, the drugmaker sank funds into Australia's Adherium, contributing $3 million to the company's AU$35 million ($25.8 million) oversubscribed IPO. AstraZeneca already has a nonexclusive deal with Adherium to supply it with smart inhalers to use with its asthma drug, Symbicort.

Adherium's Smartinhaler devices run through tablet apps, smartphone apps and home computers, offering information about patients' medication use and letting doctors and clinicians remotely monitor their condition. The product is backed by promising data, which show that the device improved drug adherence in adults by 59% in adults and by 180% in children.

- read the statement