Pfizer’s lung cancer drug Lorbrena has demonstrated groundbreaking results in clinical trials, significantly extending the lives of patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The drug, which targets ALK-positive mutations, has shown unprecedented efficacy in preventing disease progression and brain metastasis, offering new hope for patients and potential blockbuster sales for Pfizer.

Key Takeaways

  • Lorbrena has shown a 60% five-year progression-free survival rate in patients with advanced NSCLC, compared to 8% for the standard drug crizotinib.
  • The drug is particularly effective in preventing brain metastasis, reducing the risk by 94% compared to crizotinib.
  • Pfizer expects Lorbrena to generate over $1 billion in annual sales by 2030.

Unprecedented Clinical Trial Results

In a phase 3 clinical trial, Lorbrena was tested against crizotinib in 296 patients with advanced ALK-positive NSCLC. The results were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting and published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. The trial showed that 60% of patients treated with Lorbrena were alive without disease progression after five years, compared to just 8% of those treated with crizotinib.

Dr. Benjamin Solomon, the lead author of the study, described the results as “unprecedented,” noting that Lorbrena is the only ALK tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) to report such long-term progression-free survival. The drug’s ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and prevent brain metastasis is particularly noteworthy, as brain metastasis is a common and deadly complication in ALK-positive lung cancer.

Impact on Patients

The trial results have been hailed as groundbreaking by oncologists and researchers. Dr. Julie Gralow, ASCO’s chief medical officer, emphasized the significance of the findings, stating that a 60% five-year progression-free survival rate in non-small cell lung cancer is “just unheard of.” Dr. David Spigel of the Sarah Cannon Research Institute called the data “off the chart,” highlighting the drug’s potential to change the standard of care for ALK-positive lung cancer.

However, the drug is not without side effects. Treatment-related issues were reported in 77% of patients on Lorbrena, compared to 57% on crizotinib. Common side effects included swelling, high cholesterol, and elevated lipid levels. Despite these issues, the overall benefits of the drug are considered to outweigh the risks, especially for patients with brain metastasis.

Market Potential and Future Prospects

Pfizer is optimistic about the commercial potential of Lorbrena, projecting that the drug could generate over $1 billion in annual sales by 2030. The company sees significant market opportunities, particularly in China, where the prevalence of ALK-positive NSCLC is higher than the global average. Chris Boshoff, Pfizer’s Chief Oncology Officer, described Lorbrena as a “blockbuster opportunity,” noting that the drug’s long-term efficacy and ability to prevent brain metastasis set it apart from earlier treatments.

The drug’s success is also a critical component of Pfizer’s broader strategy to expand its oncology portfolio. With the decline in COVID-19 vaccine sales, Pfizer has prioritized its cancer drugs, including Lorbrena, to drive future growth. The company has also invested in acquiring cancer drugmaker Seagen and restructuring its internal operations to focus on oncology.


The clinical trial results for Lorbrena mark a significant milestone in the treatment of advanced non-small cell lung cancer. With its unprecedented efficacy in preventing disease progression and brain metastasis, Lorbrena offers new hope for patients and a promising commercial future for Pfizer. As the company continues to invest in its oncology portfolio, Lorbrena is poised to become a cornerstone of its cancer treatment offerings.


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