AstraZeneca has withdrawn an application to get its first-in-class ovarian cancer therapy Lynparza (olaparib) funded by the Cancer Drugs Fund in England.

The drug is the first targeted therapy specifically for patients with BRCA-mutated ovarian cancer who have previously undergone chemotherapy, and is currently awaiting a review by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence on whether its use should be funded on the National Health Service.

The drugmaker was seeking to get patients in England quicker access to Lynparza via the CDF while awaiting NICE’s decision, but it has now pulled back the application from the current round because the medicine “was caught up in the review process primarily designed for medicines already on the CDF list rather than for new applications”.

Removing Lynparza now will enable AZ to update its application and work with the Panel “to ensure that a reimbursement decision can be made at the earliest opportunity,” it said, though also voiced disappointment that patients would not get immediate access.

A re-evaluation of medicines on the Cancer Drugs Fund list is currently underway, with their cost-effectiveness being taken into account for the first time. Those that face the chop are yet to be confirmed, but it has been reported that six breast cancer drugs are among the treatments to be banned.

Omnis immunotherapy deal

Meanwhile, AZ is adding another string to its immunotherapy bow in a deal that will test the potential of key targets in combination with Omnis Pharmaceuticals’ anti-cancer viruses.

Under the deal, financials details of which were not disclosed, its MedImmune unit has bagged a license to Omnis’ lead investigational oncolytic virus programme, a genetically engineered strain of vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), designed to selectively infect tumour cells and destroy them without harming healthy cells. 

The group said it will accelerate clinical development of this viral strain - which is already being tested in Phase I trials in liver cancers - so that combination studies with MedImmune’s immunotherapy molecules can be rapidly progressed.