London-based pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca appears to have its eyes set on developing blockbuster cancer drugs when it revealed the promising results of clinical trials of its new cancer treatments.

The drug company may have developed tamoxifen and other treatments that are widely used for treating breast and prostate cancer as well as the cancer drug Iressa, but it has failed to come up with breakthrough cancer treatments in recent years. Results of trials involving its new experimental cancer drugs suggest that AstraZeneca is making progress and is ready to compete with other pharmaceutical giants in a bid to develop innovative cancer treatments.

On Tuesday, AstraZeneca presented the promising results of the early-stage trials of its MEDI4736 cancer drug at the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting in Chicago. MEDI4736 belongs to a class of drugs that block the cancer's ability to evade from the defenses of the immune system.

In the Phase I trial of MEDI4736 involving 27 individuals with advanced cases of solid tumors, tumor shrank in 19 percent of the participants and 39 percent had their cancer stabilized after at least 12 months of treatment. The participants of the trial were patients with melanoma, colorectal cancer, renal cancer and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

"In our Phase I studies, MEDI4736 has demonstrated encouraging clinical activity and tolerability profile across a range of tumor types," said Edward Bradley, senior vice president and head of the Oncology Innovative Medicines Unit at MedImmune, the company that AstraZeneca acquired in 2007. "We look forward to seeing further data on this molecule as part of current Phase III program, as well as the numerous combination trials underway."

AstraZeneca's AZD9291 was also promising in clinical trials. The drug, which is targeted for lung cancer patients with a gene mutation known as T790M mutation, has shrank the tumor in half of the patients participating in an early-stage trial. Pasi Janne, from the Harvard Medical School in Boston, said that AZD9291 may provide a new option for treatment without the side effects that are associated with other similar treatments.

Pharmaceutical consultant John Ansell said that AstraZeneca appears to have blockbuster cancer treatment which could have an impact on the company's sales.

"It would not have stuck its neck out over the past few weeks if it didn't think the trials would have had good results," he said. "Cancer drugs can have a swift impact on sales as authorities will often fast-forward registration in areas where there are few treatments."

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