Carlsbad-based Isis Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced that it has earned a $7.5 million milestone payment, the first of two milestone payments totaling $15 million, from AstraZeneca Plc for the advancement of its drug candidate, Isis-Stat3, in patients with advanced cancers.

Isis will earn the second $7.5 million milestone payment from AstraZeneca upon initiation of a Phase 2 study. Isis has completed a clinical study of the drug in patients with advanced cancers and plans to present results from this study at an upcoming medical meeting. AstraZeneca is currently evaluating Isis-Stat3 in a Phase 1/2 clinical study in patients with advanced metastatic liver cancer. AstraZeneca plans to initiate additional clinical studies to further evaluate the drug.

"AstraZeneca's expertise and resources in the area of oncology drug development are a significant benefit for the clinical development of Isis-Stat3," said B. Lynne Parshall, chief operating officer at Isis Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ISIS). "We are pleased, not only with the substantial resources and expertise that AstraZeneca has brought to this program, but also with their commitment to advancing Isis-Stat3 into clinical development."

Under the amended terms of agreement, Isis has earned a $7.5 million milestone payment today. Upon initiation of the Phase 2 study, Isis will earn a second $7.5 million milestone payment and an additional $10 million milestone payment. In total, Isis is eligible to receive up to $70 million in milestone payments as Isis-Stat3 advances through clinical development. In addition, Isis is eligible to earn up to $170 million in regulatory milestone payments, plus royalties on the commercial sales of the drug.