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Amgen lung cancer drug fails in late-stage study

Motesanib didn't help people with non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer live longer, but that wasn't unexpected because of problems in earlier trials. Amgen and Takeda Pharmaceutical haven't decided whether to keep working on the drug.

March 30, 2011|Bloomberg News

An experimental treatment for lung cancer made by Amgen Inc. and Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. failed to help patients live longer in a late-stage study.

The medication, motesanib, didn't meet its main goal of improving survival in a study of 1,090 patients with non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer, the companies said Wednesday. Amgen and Osaka, Japan-based Takeda haven't decided whether to continue developing the drug, said Christine Regan, an Amgen spokeswoman.

Motesanib was one of three cancer drugs in late-stage testing for Thousand Oaks-based Amgen, the world's largest biotechnology company. Although motesanib was the most advanced, analysts discounted the drug's potential because of high rates of side effects in earlier trials, said Mark Schoenebaum, an analyst with ISI Group in New York.

"The drug is entirely irrelevant to Amgen, and expectations were zero," Schoenebaum said. "Consensus estimate for peak sales is zero dollars, and we think the stock impact will be minimal, if any."

Shares of Amgen rose 47 cents, less than 1%, to $53.90.

"We've just completed the initial review of the data and, while disappointing, we are in the process of evaluating the full implication," Regan said. "We have not yet decided whether or not to continue with development."

Lung cancer killed about 157,000 Americans last year, according to the National Cancer Institute. About 223,000 new cases are diagnosed annually. Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common form of the disease, and non-squamous patients make up the majority of those cases.

There were more serious adverse events among patients treated with motesanib and chemotherapy compared with those getting placebos and chemotherapy, the companies said. Side effects seen in patients taking motesanib included high blood pressure, gallbladder complications, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and fatigue.

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