Having recently stressed that oncology is a core therapy area for its research, AstraZeneca is moving three of its cancer compounds into Phase III trials.

First up, MedImmune, AstraZeneca’s biologics R&D arm, has enrolled the first patient in a late-stage study of moxetumomab pasudotox. It is sponsored by the Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program at the US National Cancer Institute (NCI), and will evaluate the CD22 immunotoxin as a potential treatment in adults with hairy cell leukaemia who have not responded to or relapsed after standard therapy.

AstraZeneca also noted that it is planning to move its oral poly ADP ribose polymerase (PARP) inhibitor olaparib into Phase III in the second half of 2013. This is on the back of Phase II data, which will be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology congress in Chicago in a fortnight, which demonstrate its potential as a maintenance treatment for platinum-sensitive relapsed ovarian cancer patients with BRCA gene mutations.

Data from studies will also be presented at ASCO on selumetinib, a selective MEK kinase inhibitor, for melanoma, while a Phase III study of the drug in combination with docetaxel as a second-line therapy for patients with KRAS mutation-positive and metastatic non small cell lung cancer is planned to commence shortly.

Menelas Pangalos, head of innovative medicines and early development at AstraZeneca, said that cancer is "one of our three core therapy areas", and   the "progress we are making with olaparib and selumetinib, combined with our broader early phase portfolio across small molecules and biologics, puts us in a strong position to deliver our pipeline of targeted cancer medicines".