AstraZeneca has made a major leap into the world of personalised medicine by signing a cancer collaboration with Dako.

The Danish company will develop companion diagnostic tests for “multiple AstraZeneca oncology projects, including biologics and small molecules, in various stages of discovery and development”. The purpose of these tests is to determine the most appropriate cancer treatment for patients, the companies said, noting that financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Alan Barge, head of oncology at AstraZeneca said the agreement “will enable us to develop novel, reimbursable products that can improve patients' lives”. He added that the alliance “heralds the intentions of both companies to work closely together to develop new drugs linked to diagnostic tests that predict which patients are most likely to respond to treatment, ensuring that we are giving the right treatment, to the right patient, the first time”.

Interestingly, Ruth March, personalised healthcare leader at the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker went on to say the agreement is” the first in a series of strategic alliances with diagnostic companies”. AstraZeneca spokesman Chris Sampson told PharmaTimes World News that the company is not disclosing just yet what other areas other than cancer it is considering for diagnostic tie-ups, but noted that the Dako deal “is signalling how we plan to build up personalised healthcare, an area we don’t have expertise in in-house”.

The agreement comes a few months after the launch in Europe for the almost-forgotten drug Iressa (gefitinib) specifically for adults with locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer with activating mutations of epidermal growth factor receptor-tyrosine kinase.

Dako chief executive Lars Holmkvist said that “targeted treatment with personalised medicine is the future” and the outcome of the collaboration with AstraZeneca “will be beneficial not only for cancer patients, but is also a significant contributive factor in cutting healthcare costs”.

Dako is owned by the private equity fund EQT V, which bought Novo Nordisk’s 27% share of the firm in 2007. Last summer it signed a deal with Roche’s Genentech unit to collaborate on companion diagnostics for the blockbuster Herceptin (trastuzumab) in patients with advanced HER2-positive stomach cancer, having already developed breast cancer tests.