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The experimental lung cancer drug that led Eli Lilly to spend $8 billion on a smaller biotechnology firm, Loxo Oncology, delivered impressive results Monday in a study being presented at a conference in Barcelona.

A total of 68% of 105 patients — all of whom had been previously failed by chemotherapy — saw a response after taking selpercatinib, previously known as LOXO-292, meaning that their tumors decreased in size by at least 30%. Those responses lasted for a median of 20.3 months, and the patients had progression-free survival of 18.3 months, although those numbers are based on even smaller numbers of patients and could change. The drug is only effective in the 2% of lung cancer patients with a specific gene alteration.


“It’s pretty exciting,” said Jacob Van Naarden, the chief operating officer of Loxo, which is operating as a subsidiary. “I would say it’s above our expectations for what these data would look like.”

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