Merck, Eisai discontinue late-stage study for combo cancer therapy


Merck, Eisai discontinue late-stage study for combo cancer therapy

Aug 25 (Reuters) – Merck & Co. (MRK.N) and partner Eisai (4523.T) said on Friday they will shut down a late-stage study testing an experimental combination therapy for a type of head and neck cancer after an interim analysis showed it failed to prolong lives of patients.

The therapy, Merck’s blockbuster drug Keytruda in combination with Eisai’s Lenvima, failed to show statistical significance in extending overall survival, one of the three main goals of the study, the companies said.

The companies were testing the combination for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma — a cancer that develops in the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose and throat — in patients with recurrent or metastatic form of the disease and whose tumors contain a protein called PD-L1.

This type of cancer is especially common in parts of Southeast Asia, and the companies estimate it to lead to more than 66,000 new diagnoses in the United States this year.

“Our clinical program is designed to help accelerate our efforts to tackle difficult-to-treat, advanced cancers, and while the outcome may not always be what we anticipate, we know that this is part of clinical development,” said Eisai executive Corina Dutcus.

The therapy met other main goals of reducing tumor size and improving the time to death or disease worsening after treatment compared to placebo.

The companies are testing the combination to treat a range of cancers, including those affecting the lungs and stomach.

The Keytruda-Lenvima combination therapy is approved in the United States for the treatment of a type of kidney cancer and certain types of cancers in the lining of the uterus.

Reporting by Mariam Sunny in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli and Shilpi Majumdar

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Source: Reuters