Chi-Med’s colorectal cancer drug ready for phase 3

Hong Kong-based pharma company Hutchison China MediTech says it has completed enrolment for a pivotal phase 3 trial of fruquintinib in locally advanced or metastatic colorectal cancer.

Known as Chi-Med for short, the company is expanding its oncology-focused research rapidly, and is looking to take advantage of its presence in China to serve the growing need for cancer treatment in the country, and beyond.

Fruquintinib is a small molecule vascular endothelial growth factor receptors (VEGFR) taken as a once daily pill, and is being studied against placebo as a third line treatment for colorectal cancer.

The trial is being conducted in China, where the company says an estimated 390,000 new cases of CRC were diagnosed in 2012. If Chi-Med can make the most of its ‘made in China’ tag for the drug, it could help it access this huge market.

While VEGFR-targeting molecules are in danger of being eclipsed by drugs with newer mechanisms, such as PD-1 immunotherapies, Chi-Med believes the drug can improve outcomes across several solid tumour types.

Fruquintinib is also in development for lung cancer and gastric cancer.

Christian Hogg, chief executive of Chi-Med said: “While we wait for the FRESCO CRC data to mature over the balance of the year, we are focused on accelerating the ongoing phase 3 FALUCA pivotal trial in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), and launching additional studies of fruquintinib, including a Phase II study in gastric cancer in combination with paclitaxel, new studies in the U.S., and certain exploratory studies in combination with other oncology agents.”

The positive data resulted in a $18 million payment to Chi-Med from its partner, Lilly, with whom it has been collaborating in oncology since 2007.

Chi-Med has a total pipeline of eight novel oral compounds for cancer and inflammation in development in North America, Europe, Australia and Greater China.

The company has been listed on London’s AIM exchange for 10 years, but in March this yaer floated on the US Nasdaq, in order to gain more attention from specialist biotech investors.

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