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Bayer's Nexavar lung cancer trial fails

A phase III study has shown that Bayer and Onyx's Nexavar cancer drug does not help prolong the lives of lung cancer patients

A phase III study has shown that Bayer and Onyx Pharmaceuticals' Nexavar cancer drug does not help prolong the lives of lung cancer patients.

The phase III study showed that the Nexavar pill did not improve overall survival when used as an initial treatment to combat non-small cell lung cancer, the two companies said in a statement today.

Patients with advanced non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer taking the drug and having chemotherapy were less likely to see their disease worsen in the study of about 900 patients, showed that benefit didn't translate into longer lives, the companies said.

Nexavar used in combination with chemotherapy was compared with using chemotherapy and placebo, they added.

Bayer said it will continue to explore the use of Nexavar against lung cancer, which is the most common and most deadly form of cancer.

"Bayer and Onyx are disappointed," said Dimitris Voliotis, vice president of global clinical development in oncology at Bayer. "We are confident with our comprehensive clinical trial program exploring Nexavar's potential in a variety of tumour types, including lung cancer."

Lung cancer is the deadliest tumour type in the world, killing 160,000 people in the US and 342,000 in Europe annually. More than 1.4 million people are diagnosed globally with it each year.

Previous studies of Nexavar for lung cancer have yielded mixed results. An arm of the newly released study involving patients with squamous cell lung cancer was halted in 2008 after participants experienced a higher-than-expected death rate.

Nexavar, already approved for kidney and liver cancer, is one of Bayer's most promising new drugs and last year sales generated $844m. Bayer has said it expects the drug to generate combined annual sales of up to €2bn ($2.4bn). It is also being tested on breast cancer patients.

Bayer's share price fell 2.4 per cent to the bottom of the German blue-chip index after the announcement.

14th June 2010

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