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Takeda lung cancer drug Alunbrig receives thumbs-up from Canadian regulators

Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd.'s Canadian subsidiary got the go-ahead from Health Canada for the company's drug Alunbrig, which treats adults with a certain type of metastatic lung cancer.

Also known as brigatinib, Alunbrig is used in patients with anaplastic lymphoma kinase-positive metastatic non–small cell lung cancer who either are intolerant of the current standard of care or have seen disease progression after initial treatment.

Patients with this type of cancer are typically initially treated with crizotinib, a drug marketed by Pfizer Inc. under the name Xalkori. In a July 30 press release, Takeda Canada said Alunbrig can provide an alternative to the standard of care.

Non–small cell lung cancer is the most common form of lung cancer and accounts for nearly 85% of diagnosed cases in Canada every year. The subset of the disease Alunbrig treats often strikes younger people who have never smoked or were light smokers, according to Takeda.

A clinical trial demonstrated that the drug reduced tumor size and slowed the progression of the cancer in a majority of patients, Takeda said. The drug works by targeting and blocking receptors on cancer cells called an anaplastic lymphoma kinase, or ALK, which can slow or stop the progression of the disease.

"New ALK inhibitors are needed that can help address resistance to crizotinib," said Geoffrey Liu, senior scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto. "That's why the approval of Alunbrig is so important. People living with this type of cancer need new targeted treatments that will help slow down or halt tumor growth, and reduce brain metastases."

Canada is the second country to approve Alunbrig, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted priority review approval in April 2017.