A cancer drug made by Germany’s Merck has shown to be ineffective in treating stomach cancer, the pharmaceutical maker announced yesterday. The cancer drug in question, Erbitux, failed to meet expectations in a second clinical trial in two months.
The Bloomberg news agency reports that “the drug, combined with two other medicines, didn’t extend the length of time that patients lived without their disease getting worse.” The two other drugs used in the trial were cisplatin and capecitabine. In May, the company conceded that the drug was not helpful for certain colon cancer patients when combined with chemotherapy.
The latest study had about 900 subjects from around the world with inoperable stomach cancer and who had received no prior chemotherapy or radiation treatments.
The Wall Street Journal notes, however, that the Erbitux has been approved for treating metastatic colon cancer and head and neck tumors.
A Merck company official had this response:
Understandably, these results are disappointing for patients with advanced gastric cancer, and as a company we will continue to invest in oncology research and development to find new treatments for these diseases with high unmet medical need.
Erbitux, Merck’s second-best selling product, had $1.07 billion in sales in 2011. Merck is seeking approval to sell Erbitux in the European Union as a lung cancer drug treatment but according to analysts, approval now seems unlikely.
Stomach cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide, bringing about 700,000 fatalities on an annual basis. World Health Organization statistics indicate that lung cancer is the leading cause (approximately 1.4 million deaths). WHO projections suggest that overall global cancer deaths will increase to 13.1 million by the year 2030.