UPDATE 1-Testing lung tumors tailors chemotherapy

* Trial studied Tarceva, Zactima, Nexavar, Targretin

* Nexavar helped 61 percent of patients with KRAS mutation

* New trial design may be way to test new cancer drugs

* Progress at two months predicted if patients would live
(Updates throughout with details from news conference;
changes dateline and byline)

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

WASHINGTON, April 18 (BestGrowthStock) – Researchers said they
helped advanced lung cancer patients fare better by matching
their tumors to targeted drugs, in what they said is the first
significant trial to show it is possible to choose the best
drug for an individual patient.

They tested four so-called targeted therapies in patients
with specific biomarkers — mutations that the drugs were
designed to counteract.

After eight weeks, 46 percent of the patients on the trial
had their tumors grow more slowly or shrink, compared with
about 30 percent of usual lung cancer patients.

The best results were seen with Nexavar, known generically
as sorafenib, sold by Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc (ONXX.O: ) and
Bayer AG (BAYGn.DE: ), the researchers told a meeting of the
American Association for Cancer Research on Sunday.

“Sorafenib performed very well regardless of marker
status,” Dr. Edwin Kim of M.D. Anderson told a news conference.
Nexavar is designed to target a mutation in a gene called KRAS
that is seen in lung and other cancers.

More than half — 56 percent — of the patients with no
mutations in KRAS were helped by Nexavar and 61 percent of
those with the mutation were helped, Kim told the meeting,
compared with 32 percent for the other three drugs.

“It overall had very impressive activity,” Kim said.

Nexavar is approved for liver and kidney cancer. It has the
“potential to blaze a trail in lung cancer as well,” Kim said.

The trial, called BATTLE for Biomarker-integrated
Approaches of Targeted Therapy for Lung Cancer Elimination, was
designed to be different from other cancer trials. The
researchers looked for some kind of effects after two months of
treatment — either limited growth of the tumor or a sign it
had shrunk.

As they learned from the trial, they adapted. The first 97
patients were randomly treated and as the study progressed,
information on individual mutations and on the early results
were used to fine-tune who got what treatment.

EARLY PROGRESS

“If a patient was able to achieve disease control at eight
weeks their survival was 11.3 months,” Kim said. Patients who
did not see any effects of the drugs by two months only lived
on average for seven months.

This means doctors will be able to assess treatments much
sooner, saving time, money and anguish for patients and their
families.

Another difference — they got nice, big samples of
patients’ tumors up front, so they could continue to test the
tissue as new drugs are designed or as new discoveries are made
about them. The researchers want to encourage doctors and
patients to do this as a matter of course with lung cancer.

Erlotinib, sold by Roche Holding AG (ROG.VX: ) and OSI
Pharmaceuticals Inc (OSIP.O: ) under the brand name Tarceva, is
designed to block EGFR, a gene that is overactive in many types
of cancer cells.

Tarceva, a pill, helped 71 percent of the lung cancer
patients with EGFR mutations and 34 percent of those without
them.

Erwin Lobo, a 37-year-old patient with stage 3 lung cancer,
is one. “I still do not have my hair and … I used to have
really nice skin but this is one of the side-effects,” Lobo
told the news conference. “But hey, I am here, I am sharing my
story with you all and I am very happy I am alive.”

Lobo’s cancer had spread to his brain and he should have
only lived 30 days after that happened, but he was at the news
conference more than four months later.

Other drugs in the study were AstraZeneca PLC’s (AZN.L: )
Zactima, or vandetanib, designed to act against VEGF, a gene
used by tumors to grow vessels to supply blood; and
bexarotene, sold under the brand name Targretin by Eisai
Pharmaceuticals to treat a type of lymphoma, which targets a
gene called cyclin D1.

The study, funded by the U.S. Army, included 255 patients
with advanced lung cancer who had previously been treated with
chemotherapy.

The drugs had few side-effects, with 11.5 percent having a
collapsed lung, or pneumothorax, and 6.5 percent suffering
high-grade toxicities — both much lower-than-usual rates.

The researchers are already designing BATTLE 2 and BATTLE 3
trials to test more patients, new biomarkers and new drugs.

Stock Today

(Additional reporting by Deena Beasley in Los Angeles; Editing
by Maureen Bavdek)

UPDATE 1-Testing lung tumors tailors chemotherapy