* Abbott to make test that looks for gene rearrangement
* Test linked to cancer therapy being developed by Pfizer
CHICAGO - An Abbott Laboratories Inc (ABT.N) unit that makes genetic tests will work with Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) to develop a test to screen non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) tumors to determine which patients are good candidates for a novel cancer therapy being developed by Pfizer.
The Abbott unit, Abbott Molecular, said it would develop a test that determines a patient's genetic status. Results would be used to select patients for future clinical trials of a new oral cancer therapy, known as PF-02341066, being developed by Pfizer, the world's largest drugmaker.
The Abbott test, another step toward personalized medicine in cancer treatment, will determine the presence of so-called gene rearrangement in the tissue of NSCLC tumors.
Gene rearrangement is a process in cells that can contribute to the transformation of a normal cell into a cancerous one. It is found in NSCLC tumors and a wide variety of other cancers, but not in normal cells. Gene rearrangement, also called translocation, means the gene is in a different place than it usually is. If gene rearrangement is present, the Pfizer therapy is more likely to be effective, an Abbott spokesman said.
About 6 percent to 7 percent of NSCLC patients have the rearrangement and thus would be candidates for clinical trials of PF-02341066, an investigational therapy that selectively targets cancer-causing genes implicated in the progress of many cancers.
This test will allow us to focus on the patient population most likely to benefit, Garry Nicholson, general manager of the Pfizer Oncology Business Unit, said in a prepared statement.
Working with Abbott, he added, we are confident that we will deliver yet another application of personalized medicine to address a currently unmet medical need in NSCLC.
Abbott Molecular President Stafford O'Kelly said Pfizer's compound appears to be ideally suited to individualized therapy.
Financial terms of the Abbott-Pfizer deal were not disclosed.
Last month, the Abbott unit unveiled an agreement with British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L) to develop a companion test to screen for lung cancer. That test will focus on an antigen called MAGE-A3 and will screen for NSCLC tumors.
Drug companies and regulators alike increasingly are turning to these companion diagnostics -- tests that look for specific genes or proteins -- as a way to improve the odds that a high-cost biotechnology drug will work in specific patients.
AstraZeneca (AZN.L) stopped most U.S. sales of Iressa in 2004 after it was found to help only 10 percent to 15 percent of lung cancer patients. But several studies have suggested that some people -- notably nonsmokers, Asians and women -- did better on Iressa. (Reporting by Debra Sherman; editing by John Wallace)