* Novartis therapy lifted prostate cancer victims’ survival
* Swiss drugmaker has been expanding in nuclear medicine
* Sloan Kettering doctor calls result ‘a transformation in care’
ZURICH, June 3 (Reuters) - Men with a deadly form of advanced prostate cancer who failed other treatments survived four months longer after getting an experimental, tumour-targeting radiation therapy from Swiss drugmaker Novartis , data released on Thursday showed.
The company’s Lu-PSMA-617 therapy boosted median overall survival (OS) to 15.3 months in patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer, according to data released at the 2021 American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting.
That compared with 11.3 months for men who got standard care.
Men who got the treatment also lived a median 8.7 months without their cancer progressing, more than double the 3.4-month progression free survival (PFS) of those who did not get it, the data showed.
Novartis announced the drug extended survival in March, but this is the first time specific figures have been released.
The therapy attaches a radioactive isotope, lutetium-177, with a half-life of less than seven days to a small molecule drug, PSMA-617, that binds to an antigen expressed in large amounts by prostate cancer cells, with the aim of killing them in a targeted way while limiting damage to surrounding, healthy cells.
“This work represents a transformation in care for individuals with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer,” said Dr. Michael Morris, a prostate cancer specialist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, who chaired the study’s scientific committee.
The Swiss-based drugmaker plans to file Lu-PSMA-617 for approval this year.
Novartis, which got the therapy when it bought Endocyte three years ago for $2.1 billion, has a growing cabinet of radioligand medicines that also includes already approved Lutathera.
Prostate cancer can often be treated via surgery, radiation therapy or hormone therapy that stops tumour-driving testosterone from being produced or reaching prostate cancer cells.
Metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer, however, resists such hormone treatment, making it tough to treat -- and a potentially lucrative target. Novartis eventually sees Lu-PSMA-617 topping $1 billion in sales annually.
“Men with metastatic prostate cancer have an approximately three in 10 chance of surviving five years,” John Tsai, Novartis’s top drug developer, said, adding the data released on Thursday confirm the therapy’s prospects as a new option to help increase the survival rate.
Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Lisa Shumaker