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Merck Serono pulls development of lung cancer prospect

Ditches tecemotide immunotherapy to focus on anti-PD1
Merck KGaA HQ Darmstadt

Merck Serono has discontinued the development of oncology drug tecemotide as a lung cancer treatment in order to focus on more promising aspects of its pipeline.

The company, which is the biopharmaceutical division of Merck KGaA, announced today that it has ended a study programme investigating tecemotide as a monotherapy in stage III non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) after poor results from a trial involving Japanese patients.

The phase I/II trial, known as EMR 63325-009, compared tecemotide to placebo in patients on concurrent or sequential chemoradiotherapy. Results from the study suggested tecemotide had no effect on the primary endpoint of overall survival or any of the secondary endpoints.

Luciano Rossetti, global head of research & development at Merck Serono, said: “While the data from the exploratory subgroup analysis in the START trial1 generated a reasonable hypothesis to warrant additional study, the results of the recent trial in Japanese patients decreased the probability of current studies to reach their goals.”

Instead Merck Serono will turn its attentions to other cancer prospects, with Rossetti singling out fellow immunotherapy MSB0010718C as a priority for the company in lung cancer.

MSB0010718C is one of several promising anti-PD1 immunotherapies currently in development by pharma companies for a variety of cancers.

The most advanced treatments in this class are Merck & Co's pembrolizumab, which was recently approved in the US under the brand name Keytruda to treat melanoma, and Bristol-Myers Squibb and Ono's nivolumab, which has a similar approval in Japan under the brand name Opdivo.

With the melanoma market already looking very competitive, Merck Serono has prioritised the development of its anti-PD1 in other cancers, including metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) for which the drug is in phase II trials.

Lung cancer is another promising area for the drug and Merck Serono plans to investigate the drug in a number of other cancers, including colorectal cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer.

As for the future of tecemotide, Merck Serono has not ruled out the drug's potential in other forms of cancer, and the company will continue to supply the immunotherapy for ongoing investigator-sponsored trials in other indications.

Article by
Thomas Meek

12th September 2014

From: Research

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