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Recentin by Astra Zeneca Fails in trials


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LONDON (Reuters) - AstraZeneca Plc is stopping a clinical trial of Recentin as a treatment for lung cancer after a mid-stage study failed to meet its main goal, although trials in colorectal cancer will move ahead.

The mixed news on Wednesday adds to the company's patchy record on drug research, analysts said.

Recentin, which is given as a pill, is a rival to Roche Holding AG and Genentech Inc's blockbuster injectable treatment Avastin. It was being tested against non-small-cell lung cancer, the most common form of the disease.

The Anglo-Swedish drug maker said Recentin had shown some evidence of clinical activity in lung cancer but a Phase II/III trial would not progress into Phase III because among patients given the drug "there appeared to be an imbalance in toxicity".

John Patterson, the company's executive director for development, said AstraZenenca remained committed to investigating the potential of Recentin in lung cancer, despite the setback.

AstraZeneca, meanwhile, is progressing with a final stage Phase III clinical trial comparing Recentin plus chemotherapy with Avastin plus chemotherapy in colorectal cancer.

Shares in the drug maker were 0.3 percent lower at 20.01 pounds by 0825 GMT in a broadly unchanged market for drug stocks.

Navid Malik, a pharmaceuticals analyst at Collins Stewart, said lung cancer had potentially been the bigger commercial opportunity for Recentin, given there were already a number of competing drugs in colorectal cancer.

"Recentin was potentially a $1 billion product, so I think this is going to be quite disappointing for AstraZeneca," he said. "AstraZeneca needs good news from the pipeline."

AstraZeneca, which is facing the threat of generic competition to its two biggest sellers -- Nexium and Seroquel -- has suffered a series of setbacks with its new drug pipeline in recent years.

Back in 2001, AstraZeneca was the top-rated stock in the European sector but the failure of five key drugs -- Exanta, Iressa, Galida, NXY-059 and AGI-1067 -- and the risk from generics has pushed it into the bargain basement, trading at around 8.7 times forecast 2009 earnings.

Recentin, like Avastin, is a targeted cancer therapy -- a new class of medicine designed to fight tumours more effectively than chemotherapy, with fewer side effects. It targets three vascular endothelial growth factor receptors used by tumors to get blood supply.

AstraZeneca also has another similar experimental drug in development for lung cancer, called Zactima. Clinical trial results for this product are expected to read out in the coming months.

(Additional reporting by Mark Potter; Editing by Quentin Bryar/David Cowell)

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