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Drug spun off by AstraZeneca shows promise in hot flashes

LONDON, April 3 An experimental drug spun off by AstraZeneca last year to an unlisted U.S. biotech firm could cut menopausal hot flashes by nearly three-quarters, according to results from a small mid-stage clinical trial.

The British drugmaker licensed rights to the medicine, which is given as a pill, to Millendo Therapeutics as part of its strategy to divest non-core drug development.

Findings published on Monday in the Lancet medical journal suggest the arrangement is working well for Millendo, which is backed by venture capitalists. AstraZeneca also holds a stake in the company.

The drug, known as MLE4901, works in a novel way by blocking a chemical called neurokinin B.

Hot flashes or flushes, also known as vasomotor symptoms, have been a problematic field for drug research. Hormone replacement therapy can help some women but the therapy can increase the risk of breast cancer and blood clots.

The new drug targets receptors in the brain and offers a different, non-hormonal approach.

The Phase II study funded by Britain's Medical Research Council and the National Institute for Health Research, found 28 women who suffered seven or more hot flashes a day could cut episodes by up to 73 percent with MLE4901, as well as reducing their severity.

Researchers now need to see if the drug, which is also being tested for polycystic ovary syndrome, is safe and effective over the long term in a larger group of patients. (Reporting by Ben Hirschler, editing by David Evans)

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