China approves Astra drug Imfinzi for aggressive form of lung cancer

FILE PHOTO: An AstraZeneca sign is seen at the third China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai, China November 6, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song

(Reuters) -China has approved AstraZeneca’s drug Imfinzi to treat an aggressive type of lung cancer in adults, the company said on Monday, in a boost to its efforts to tackle the disease.

China’s National Medical Products Administration has okayed use of the drug with chemotherapy in adults with extensive-stage small cell lung cancer (SCLC), the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker said.

The Chinese agency approved Imfinzi in 2019 to treat a certain type of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

SCLC is an aggressive form of lung cancer that typically recurs and advances despite a response to chemotherapy. Only about 3% of those with extensive-stage disease live beyond five years after diagnosis.

China’s approval came after positive results from a late-stage trial, which showed that the drug, when used with chemotherapy, helped improve patients’ overall survival compared to chemotherapy alone. Results from a local trial also aligned with global results, AstraZeneca said.

The drugmaker is also seeking to catch up with Swiss rival Roche, whose Tecentriq is approved in China and many other countries for extensive-stage SCLC.

AstraZeneca’s lung cancer portfolio includes a range of medicines including Imfinzi, which was approved in the United States and the European Union last year for extensive-stage SCLC.

Imfinzi, which enables the immune system to detect and attack certain cancer cells, is already approved in many countries as a treatment for the more common NSCLC.

Lung cancer accounts for roughly a fifth of all deaths from cancer and is the leading cause of cancer deaths among both men and women.

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