AstraZeneca Falls On Disappointing Lung Cancer Trial Results

A City trader's approach to AZ shares? Not quite but they are quarantine

The company also notes that the drug wasn't tested for, but would have missed, a secondary endpoint of Imfinzi monotherapy reaching a certain level for progression-free survival compared to platinum-based standard-of-care.

Mystic - a trial of AstraZeneca's immuno-oncology (IO) drug Imfinizi - failed to improve progression free survival in patients compared to using chemotherapy, the firm said today.

The results as well as the outcome of the MYSTIC trial follow recent media reports that Soriot might be headed for generics drugmaker Teva.

In an update to the stock market, the company - which makes many widely used clinical drugs, including anaesthetics and diabetes treatments - said that initial results of the study, known as "Mystic", showed that the medicines did not "meet the primary endpoint" intended from the trial.

Soriot declined to comment directly on what he described as "rumours" on Thursday, although company insiders said he would have had to make a statement if he had firm plans to leave. He added: "The only thing I tell you is I'm here today" and "proud to lead AstraZeneca".

Immunotherapies promise to revolutionise cancer care, prompting a race among companies to develop rival treatments. Merck shares were up 3.5 percent to $64 in early trading.

But Bristol-Myers Squibb fell 5 percent, as investors anxious about its experimental immunotherapy treatment that is similar to AstraZeneca's combination.

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Durvalumab, which AstraZeneca flagged in 2014 as having annual sales potential of $6.5 billion, is key to its drive into oncology.

Offsetting the Mystic hit, the company also reported that its Tagrisso lung cancer pill improved progression-free survival in another trial called Flaura, which Soriot said put it on track for eventual sales of more than $4 billion a year.

Merck is an immediate beneficiary of AstraZeneca's misfortune because its checkpoint inhibitor Keytruda in combination with chemotherapy is already approved to treat newly diagnosed lung cancer patients. If all conditions of the partnership are met, Merck will pay AstraZeneca as much as $8.5 billion.

AstraZeneca said Lynparza's pipeline has grown significantly in the last few years, with 14 indications now being developed across several tumour types, including breast, prostate and pancreatic cancers.

"AstraZeneca is now at a crossroads", said Joe Walters, senior fund manager at Royal London Asset Management, a top-30 shareholder, according to Thomson Reuters data.

The result of the Mystic trial, released a full 11 minutes after a set of better-than-expected second quarter earnings from the U.K.'s second-largest pharma group, and five minutes after the separate announcement of a multi-billion dollar strategic alliance with Merck & Co. Inc. Revenue dropped 10% to $5.05 billion.

AstraZeneca has reiterated its guidance for 2017, with it anticipating a low to mid single-digit percentage decline in total revenue.

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