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Trial failure forces Xenova cutbacks

Published on 28/10/03 at 04:48pm

Xenova has halted phase III clinical trials of its lead product after an independent safety committee confirmed safety fears about the drug.

Trials of Tariquidar as an adjunct treatment for non-small-cell-lung cancer (NSCLC) were suspended earlier this year to allow the Data Safety Monitoring Committee to investigate concerns over the drug's toxicity.

Scrapping the trials led to a 50% drop in Xenova's share price and will continue to have further knock-on effects as the company seeks to cut back its running costs.

Chief Executive David Oxlade said: "Xenova's has decided to take immediate steps to substantially reduce operating costs. This will include a reduction in headcount as well as further programme prioritisation".

Xenova has been relying on Tariquidar to bring in milestone and licensing payments from QLT, the company's US partner, but its failure means Xenova had just one year's worth of cash reserves before it announced the cost-cutting.

The company will continue trials of the drug for use in chemorefractory breast cancer, but NSCLC was to be its primary indication as a combination treatment with first-line chemotherapy.

Tariquidar had been hailed as a potential breakthrough for the treatment of NSCLC when all other treatments have failed and was predicted to reach peak year sales of $500 million a year.

After being granted a fast-track review by the FDA last year, Xenova had expected Tariquidar to come to market in 2005.

The company will now focus on its other clinical programmes, which include vaccines for cervical cancer and cocaine addiction.

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