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.
AdvertisementThe new tests are based on smart technology that can find out small fragments of circulating tumor DNA in the plasma taken from patients' blood.
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 Iressa.