AstraZeneca shares take historic tumble on failed lung cancer study

AstraZeneca shares take historic tumble on failed lung cancer study

"While the results from the MYSTIC trial for progression free survival in first-line Stage IV non-small cell lung cancer compared with standard of care are disappointing, the trial was created to assess overall survival and we look forward to evaluating the remaining primary endpoints of overall survival for both mono- and combination therapy", said Executive Vice President, Global Medicines Development and Chief Medical Officer Sean Bohen.

AstraZeneca's share price took a 16% dive by mid-morning as the firm announced that its key anticancer monoclonal antibody (mAb) Imfinzi™ (durvalumab) failed to meet an initial primary PFS endpoint in a late-stage study in advanced lung cancer.

It did say that it will continue to test for further primary endpoints for overall survival for Imfinzi, or durvalumab, both in monotherapy and in combination. The trial for the drug is now expected to reach completion in the first half of 2018.

Given that the focus around AstraZeneca is on its pipeline, the first half results played second fiddle this morning. This is despite the company's drug sales falling, as it is yet to recover from the loss of patent for its blockbuster cholesterol drug Crestor.

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Despite income from several disposals and external deals, revenues slipped 9% (at constant exchange rates) to US$10.46bn.

Net income totaled $477 million compared with a loss of $3 million in the same quarter past year as AstraZeneca reined in costs and increased sales of cancer drugs. Merck shares were up 3.5 percent to $64 in early trading.

As for dividend, that remained unchanged at US$0.90 (68.9p) a share as Astra repeated its full-year guidance.

A Jefferies International LLC team led team led by Jeffrey Holford, Ian Hilliker and David Gu made a similar point, calling AstraZeneca a consolidation target.

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The phase 3 test was seeking to boost progression-free survival (PFS) in advanced, first-line non-small cell lung cancer patients using either its PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitor Imfinzi (durvalumab) as a monotherapy, or Imfinzi in combo with CTLA-4 drug tremelimumab.

FTSE-100 listed AstraZeneca PLC said on Thursday it performed in line with its expectations for the half year, with profit up year-on-year, but shares fell on the news that its Imfinzi drug did not meet a primary endpoint of progression-free survival compared to chemotherapy. As part of the agreement, Merck will pay AstraZeneca up to $8.5 billion in total consideration, including $1.6 billion upfront, $750 million for certain license options and up to $6.15 billion contingent on successful achievement of future regulatory and sales milestones.

AstraZeneca separately announced it has entered a "global strategic oncology collaboration" with Merck & Co Inc, to co-develop and co-commercialise AstraZeneca's Lynparza drug, a treatment for multiple cancer types.

Shares lost 15.7% at the open to £43.11.

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