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AstraZeneca shares surge after key drug shows promise in lung cancer trial

AstraZeneca shares surge after key drug shows promise in lung cancer trial
From Reuters - May 12, 2017

LONDON A trial of AstraZeneca's key immunotherapy drug durvalumab showed it reduced disease progression in lung cancer patients, sending the company's shares higher and giving it a lead over rivals as it seeks to transform its oncology business.

The trial results are an unexpectedly early boost for the product, known commercially as Imfinzi, which the company hopes will become a blockbuster drug with sales in the billions of dollars.

It sets AstraZeneca apart from rivals Merck and Roche, whose equivalent drugs are years behind in the race for similar treatments against lung cancer.

Shares in AstraZeneca extended gains to be up by 9.1 percent by mid-afternoon, the top FTSE 100 riser, hitting its highest level since September 2016 and set for its biggest one day rise since May 2014.

Merck fell 1.5 percent, while Roche was up 0.9 percent.

AstraZeneca said it was in talks with the authorities over plans for regulatory approval.

"These are highly encouraging results for patients with locally-advanced lung cancer for whom surgery is not an option," Sean Bohen, Executive Vice President, Global Medicines Development at AstraZeneca, said in a statement.

Analysts said the results of the trial, known as PACIFIC, showed AstraZeneca was ahead of competitors as there was a gap in the market for such treatment. It also augured well for another trial due in mid-2017 which could mean the drug could be used in combination in newly diagnosed cases.

"The surprise early positive readout of the PACIFIC trial of... durvalumab (Imfinzi) in locally advanced lung cancer is a major inflection point for AstraZeneca's immuno-oncology," analysts at Deutsche Bank said in a note.

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