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GSK's cancer vaccine flunks another trial

MAGE-A3 fails to improve survival in lung cancer patients
GSK - logo on building

Prospects for GlaxoSmithKline's therapeutic cancer vaccine MAGE-A3 are looking increasingly shaky after a second negative phase III trial, this time in lung cancer.

The MAGRIT study showed that the vaccine was unable to improve disease-free survival (DFS) compared to placebo in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose tumours carried the MAGE-A3 antigen, regardless of whether or not they were receiving chemotherapy.

Last year, the vaccine also failed to extend DFS in melanoma patients who tested positive for the MAGE-A3 antigen.

At the time GSK said it would continue the melanoma study - called DERMA - to see if the vaccine could help a sub-population of patients with a specific gene signature, and has made a similar commitment in the NSCLC trial with results due in 2015.

GSK measured the levels of expression of a number of immune response-related messenger RNAs in the tumours prior to vaccination of patients, so is hoping to identify groups more likely to benefit from the vaccine than others.

"We are disappointed that the trial did not demonstrate a benefit for overall MAGE-A3 positive patient population, but we remain committed to the effort to identify a sub-population of NSCLC patients who may benefit from this investigational treatment," commented GSK's immunotherapeutics R&D head Vincent Brichard.

Analysts at Panmure Gordon said this morning they had already written off the product in the wake of the melanoma trial because it was very high risk, adding nevertheless they were disappointed as positive data would have been a "transformative pipeline opportunity".

The news is also a blow to Agenus, which supplies the QS-21 Stimulon adjuvant used in GSK's vaccine but also other vaccine candidates in the company's pipeline such as those targeting shingles and malaria.

The negative result comes during a difficult period for the cancer immunotherapies sector, with Merck KGaA reporting disappointing results in a phase III trial of its L-BLP25 candidate for NSCLC last year, while prostate cancer vaccine Provenge from Dendreon is struggling to make headway in the marketplace.

Article by
Phil Taylor

20th March 2014

From: Research

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