AstraZeneca has signed an agreement with Roche and Qiagen to
develop two separate diagnostic tests, both using simple blood samples, to find
out patients who will benefit from its lung cancer drugs.
At present, the testing of patients to see if their tumors
contain genetic mutations that make them suitable for drug treatment involves
collecting a sample of tissue by needle biopsy or during surgery.
The new tests are based on smart technology that can find
out small fragments of circulating tumor DNA in the plasma taken from patients'
The association with Qiagen involves developing such a test
to accompany AstraZeneca's established lung cancer pill Iressa, while the collaboration
with Roche is for a companion diagnostic to go with AstraZeneca's experimental
successor to Iressa called AZD9291.
AZD9291 targets a genetic mutation that helps tumors avoid
existing treatments and AstraZeneca believes it could sell a total of $3
billion a year.
The mutation, T790M, develops in about half of lung cancers
that become defiant to current epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitors like