Yesterday, patient enrollment (1200) for a phase III trial of ASA404, jointly developed by Novartis (NVS) and Antisoma for the treatment of non small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) was completed. Novartis is conducting the trial as the development and commercialization partner (for ASA404) of Antisoma.

The trial will be conducted to test the effectiveness of the drug as a first-line treatment for squamous and non-squamous NSCLC with results due in 2010 or early 2011. The company expects to file for approval in 2011 if the trial results are positive. In addition to this, Novartis will be conducting another study of the drug in previously treated patients.

Lung cancer kills 1.3 million people a year and is one of the leading causes of cancer death across the world. NSCLC accounting for about 87% of all lung cancer patients is one of the leading causes of death. Survival rates are very poor in this class, which kills more patients than breast, colon and prostate cancer together. Only 15% of patients live more than 5 years, primarily because of the late diagnosis of the disease.

There are several companies like Pfizer (PFE) and Cell Therapeutics (CTIC) with drugs under different stages of development targeting diseases such as NSCLC. Merck KGaA is developing Stimuvax (a cancer vaccine) currently under phase III trial for the treatment of patients with NSCLC, multiple myeloma and breast cancer.

Chemotherapy used to be the main treatment, but with many new therapies under development, the scenario is likely to change. Chemotherapy is expected to account for only 36% of treatment in 2014 (dropping from 68% in 2007).
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