AstraZeneca-Merck Pancreatic Cancer Drug Wins European Approval

AstraZeneca Plc’s (AZN) and Merck Co.’s (MRK) Lynparza drug has received a green light from the European Commission (EC) for the treatment of patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer.

The EC approval was awarded following results from a Phase III POLO trial, which found that the Lynparza drug treatment almost doubled the time patients with germline BRCA-mutated (gBRCAm) metastatic pancreatic cancer lived without disease progression or death to a median of 7.4 months versus 3.8 months on placebo. The safety and tolerability profile of Lynparza in the trial was consistent with previous trials.

Pancreatic cancer is a rare, life-threatening disease with the lowest survival rate among the most common cancers. About 5-7% of patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer have a germline BRCA mutation.

Lynparza is a first-in-class PARP inhibitor, which is a targeted treatment to potentially block DNA damage response (DDR) pathway deficiencies, such as so-called BRCA mutations to kill cancer cells.

“Merck and AstraZeneca are committed to advancing research into the treatment of patients with challenging types of cancer, including those with metastatic pancreatic cancer,” said Merck Chief Medical Officer Roy Baynes. “Lynparza is now the only approved PARP inhibitor in biomarker-selected patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer. We look forward to making this targeted treatment option available for patients across the EU as quickly as possible.”

The cancer drug is approved in the U.S. and several other countries as a 1st-line maintenance treatment for patients with gBRCAm metastatic pancreatic cancer based on the Phase III POLO trial.

AstraZeneca shares have jumped more than 40% since mid-March as the company joined the list of companies engaged in the development of a potential coronavirus vaccine. The stock fell 1.2% to close at $53.47 on Tuesday.

Despite the recent rally, the $61.67 average analyst price target still puts the upside potential at 15% in the coming 12 months. (See AstraZeneca stock analysis on TipRanks)

Overall, the stock scores a Strong Buy consensus from the analyst community based on 4 unanimous Buy ratings.

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