Pfizer's Drug Treats Some Patients Very Well Indeed

Pfizer's (NYSE: PFE  ) cancer drug development is getting personal. Rather than going after a large market like it did with Lipitor, the company's drug candidate crizotinib targets the 3% to 5% of people with non-small-cell lung cancer who have a specific genetic mutation.

Slicing and dicing the market, which other drugs like AstraZeneca's (NYSE: AZN  ) Iressa have done, cuts into the volume of sales, but the strategy can pay off if the drug works well in the subset of patients with a genetic mutation. Increased effectiveness translates into an increased price, which can make up for the decreased sales volume.

So far, the personalized approach seems to be working well for Pfizer's crizotinib. In a phase 2 trial presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting, nearly all the patients showed some response to crizotinib and more than half of the lung cancer patients saw their tumors shrink significantly. Because the patients had already failed multiple therapies, doctors would have expected only 10% or so to respond to their next round of treatment.

All the patients had a genetic mutation that fused the EML4 and ALK genes together. Abbott Labs (NYSE: ABT  ) is working with Pfizer to develop a diagnostic test to detect that mutation.

Pfizer plans to apply for approval in the first half of next year, presumably as a late-stage treatment for patients with no other option. Pfizer is testing crizotinib head to head against a standard chemotherapy treatment of Eli Lilly's (NYSE: LLY  ) Alimta or sanofi-aventis' (NYSE: SNY  ) Taxotere. If that phase 3 trial comes up positive, Pfizer would be able to amend its label for use as a first-line treatment.

Crizotinib is never going to hit the sales level of Lipitor. But specific lung cancer patients, plus the potential for using the drug in other cancers that also have mutations in the ALK gene, should help move Pfizer's revenue line incrementally upward.

James Early says the best stocks to own are those that pay a dividend.

Pfizer is a recommendation of the Inside Value newsletter. The Inside Value team scours high and low to bring you the best value stocks available. Check it out for free with a 30-day trial.

Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (0) | Recommend This Article (3)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

Be the first one to comment on this article.

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 1201989, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 12/20/2014 4:56:35 AM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...


Advertisement