Zurich: Novartis AG’s Afinitor medicine cut tumour size by 50% or more in a third of patients with lymphoma in a mid-stage clinical trial, the Swiss drugmaker said on Monday.
Novartis said it had started a late-stage trial to evaluate Afinitor’s potential to extend disease-free survival in patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL).
The daily oral treatment Afinitor is one of the Swiss group’s most important new drugs and is being tested for use against several different types of cancer, which could help it achieve sales of more than $1 billion annually.
Novartis shares rose 1.1% to 43.24 Swiss francs by 1.40 pm, compared with a 0.2% drop in the European health care sector.
The current gold standard treatment against DLBCL is Rituxan, made by Novartis’ Swiss rival Roche Holding AG, whose stock was up 0.3%.
Afinitor works by blocking a protein known as mTOR and disrupting the growth, division and metabolism of cancer cells and is a key plank of Novartis’ strategy to expand in cancer drugs.
The US Food and Drug Administration approved Afinitor earlier this year for use in advanced kidney cancer and European regulators have also recommended it. Novartis expects a filing for use in neuroendocrine tumours within the next year.
Vontobel analyst Andrew Weiss sees peak sales at $500 million in advanced kidney cancer but has not yet included possible revenue from other indications, which could be further positives if the drug reaches the market.
The mid stage trial assessed the drug in patients with relapsed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Hodgkin’s disease, a variety of cancers which affect the immune system. Afinitor significantly shrunk tumours in 33% of patients, data which prompted Novartis to start the late stage study, the company said.