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Roche's Ventana Collaborates with AstraZeneca's MedImmune

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Roche's (RHHBY) Ventana Medical Systems, Inc. has entered into a collaboration agreement with MedImmune, the global biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca (AZN).

Both the companies are jointly developing a PD-L1 (SP263) immunohistochemistry assay to enroll patients in clinical trials for MedImmune's MEDI4736 anti-PD-L1 therapy for non-small cell lung carcinoma. The deal includes the MEDI4736 ATLANTIC trial that will enroll only patients who express PD-L1 as determined by the VENTANA assay.

The treatment is based on cancer immunotherapy which is gaining a lot of interest in the recent times as pharmaceuticals majors focus their R&D efforts on the same.

Roche specializes in cancer drugs. We are encouraged by the recent bout of news on the pipeline candidates. Last week, Roche announced positive results from a phase I study on oncology candidate, anti-PDL1 (MPDL3280A).

The results from the study showed that immunotherapy candidate MPDL3280A was effective in shrinking tumors by 43% in treatment experienced patients suffering from metastatic urothelial bladder cancer. These patients had tumors that were characterized as PD-L1 positive by a test being developed by Roche. The candidate was granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (:FDA).

On the other hand, Roche recently announced encouraging results from a phase II study, JO25567. The study evaluated the safety and efficacy of Avastin in combination with Tarceva as the first line treatment for patients suffering from advanced non-small cell lung cancer (:NSCLC) characterized by activating mutations of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR Mut+) compared to Tarceva alone.

The study was conducted in Japan. The results from the study showed that Avastin in combination with Tarceva helped patients live significantly longer without their disease getting worse compared to those given Tarceva alone. Consequently, the study met its primary endpoint of progression-free survival (PFS). Both the drugs are already approved for the treatment of lung cancer.

Roche currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Some better-ranked stocks in the same industry include Allergan (AGN) and Gilead Sciences (GILD). Both stocks carry a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

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