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CHICAGO – For José Baselga, who took over cancer research and development at AstraZeneca after leaving a top job at Memorial Sloan Kettering under a cloud, new data the company is presenting Sunday morning about using its drug Lynparza in pancreatic cancer are a vindication.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Baselga. “It validates the principle we have been fighting for all these years: that even in the most difficult disease, even the disease where you think you’re not going to win, if you find the genetic vulnerability, if you find that, then those giants, they crumble.”


The news: If pancreatic tumors have mutations in the same BRCA gene that can increase women’s chance of ovarian or breast tumors, patients go an extra 3.6 months — twice as long — without dying or having their tumors grow by more than 30%. That such a benefit can matter emphasizes what a grim diagnosis pancreatic cancer is, and only a twentieth of pancreatic cancers are related to BRCA mutations. But for Baselga and his new boss, Pascal Soriot, who talked to STAT at AstraZeneca’s spaceship-like booth at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the data symbolize the vast potential of targeted cancer drugs. The data are being presented at the ASCO meeting and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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