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CRUK, AstraZeneca, Pfizer Target Lung Cancer in Stratified Multi-drug Trial

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Cancer Research UK, AstraZeneca, and Pfizer plan to launch a clinical trial that will screen for genetic markers to determine which of as many as 14 lung cancer drugs might work best for specific patients, CRUK said today.

The National Lung Matrix trial is part of the second phase of CRUK's Stratified Medicine Programme, which the three partners undertook in 2011. It will recruit patients from CRUK's Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre Network, which includes 18 hospitals spread across the UK.

The first phase of the Stratified Medicine Programme demonstrated methods for NHS hospitals to routinely test tumor samples and use that genetic information to match cancer patients with the optimal treatments, CRUK said.

The Matrix project is a Phase II trial that will be run by CRUK's Clinical Trials Unit at the University of Birmingham, and it will target patients with very specific and often rare mutations. AstraZeneca will provide up to 12 medicines through its MedImmune research branch, and Pfizer will provide two drugs.

CRUK, Astrazeneca, and Pfizer are jointly funding the program, along support from the National Health Service. In total, the project will represent around £25 million ($42 million) worth of research, CRUK said.

Slated to kick off later this year, the trial will enable researchers to test several drugs at the same time. After they treat patients with drugs aimed at targeting specific tumor mutations, the researchers will look for signs of improvement, such as tumor shrinkage or alleviation of symptoms.

If a drug looks promising in a small group of patients, the researchers will have the option of fast-tracking it into a larger trial involving more patients who have the same genetic changes. The Matrix trial also will be able to incorporate new drugs that may come along during the course of the project.

"This unique partnership will allow us to look for molecular targets across hundreds of cancers, and find out as early as possible which new treatments can help patients," CRUK Chief Clinician Peter Johnson said in a statement.

"As our understanding of cancer biology has evolved, we have learned that targeting the genetic abnormalities within a cancer can lead to meaningful improvements in care for that disease," Mace Rothenberg, senior VP of clinical development and medical affairs, and chief medical officer of Pfizer Oncology, added. "Today, the research community is grappling with the most efficient and effective way to conduct clinical trials and deliver new medicines to patients in this new world of stratified medicine. We believe the innovative design of the National Lung Matrix trial may hold significant potential for patients with advanced lung cancer."