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Merck KGaA and Pfizer's Bavencio fails at Phase 3 in gastric cancer

Published on 28/11/17 at 04:00pm

Merck KGaA and Pfizer have been rocked by the news that their jointly-developed anti-PD-L1 antibody failed to meet its primary endpoint in Phase 3 trials.

Bavencio (avelumab) proved unable to demonstrate superior rates of overall survival compared to standard chemotherapy as a third-line treatment for unresectable, recurrent or metastatic gastric cancer in patients whose cancer had returned or spread despite two prior rounds of treatment.

Despite the drug’s failure, Chris Boshoff, Pfizer’s Head of Immuno-oncology, maintained optimism at its prospects in the future, saying in a statement: “We are confident that our broad clinical development programme in both monotherapy and combinations across a range of cancers will continue to bring new potential treatment options to patients.”

Bavencio is already approved in skin and bladder cancer indications, securing authorisation earlier this year. The drug is expected to make the biggest waves in the lung cancer market, though data on its efficacy in this area are not expected until next year.

"Gastric cancer in the third-line setting is a particularly hard-to-treat and heterogeneous disease, and importantly, this was the first trial conducted with a checkpoint inhibitor compared to an active chemotherapy comparator rather than placebo in a global patient population," remarked Luciano Rossetti, Global Head of R&D at Merck's biopharma business.

Matt Fellows

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