Roche has announced plans to buy US group Ignyta for $27 a share in an all-cash deal totaling around $1.7 billion, securing itself access to the latter’s experimental cancer medicines.

San Diego, California-based Ignyta is focused on precision medicine in oncology that seeks to identify and treat patients with cancers carrying specific rare mutations.

The firm’s lead molecule entrectinib is an orally bioavailable, CNS-active tyrosine kinase inhibitor being developed for tumours that harbor ROS1 fusions (in non-small cell lung cancer), or NTRK fusions (across a broad range of solid tumours).

The drug is currently being assessed in a pivotal Phase II clinical trial, which, if successful, will support NDA submissions in NTRK tumour-agnostic and ROS1 NSCLC.

Interim data from the STARTRK-2 trial in patients with ROS1 fusion-positive advanced NSCLC taking entrectinib showed a 78 percent (25 out of 32; by Investigator) objective response rate, and a median duration of response of 28.6 months and median progression free survival of 29.6 months.

“Cancer is a highly complex disease and many patients suffer from mutations which are difficult to detect and treat. The agreement with Ignyta builds on Roche’s strategy of fitting treatments to patients and will allow Roche to broaden and strengthen its oncology portfolio globally,” said Daniel O’Day, the Swiss drugmaker’s chief executive.

The closing of the transaction is expected to take place in the first half of 2018.