— Roche Holding AG has
halted a study of an experimental lung cancer drug because it failed
to help patients with the disease, a blow for the drug which had
been seen as a potential big seller as treatment options for the
disease are limited.
Roche, the world's largest maker of cancer drugs,
said an independent data monitoring committee had recommended the
current study of the drug should be stopped because it wasn't shown
to work in patients with non-small cell lung cancer when combined
with lung cancer pill Tarceva in late-stage studies.
It said it was evaluating what the results of the study mean for the
clinical program of the drug, called onartuzumab or MetMab, and in
the meantime was looking at options for lung cancer treatment.
It did not say who was on the data monitoring committee, but such
groups are typically made up of doctors and carry out their work in
conjunction with hospitals and patients.
"We remain committed to helping patients with lung cancer and are
studying several investigational medicines in this disease," Roche
Chief Medical Officer and Head of Global Product Development ¯Sandra
Horning said in a statement on Monday.
While the MetMab data is a setback, analysts at private bank J.
Safra Sarasin said any fall in Roche stock would be limited because
the drug wasn't among those seen as a major catalyst for the company
The setback comes after Roche's schizophrenia drug bitopertin also
suffered a blow. Data on its breast cancer drugs Kadycla and Perjeta
in combination are expected at a June medical conference devoted to
Some analysts had touted injectable MetMab, pending successful
completion of trials, as a potential blockbuster because of the
limited treatment options for lung cancers.
Roche stock, which had hit an all-time intraday high of 274.8 francs
on Friday, traded 2.1 percent lower at 265.9 francs by 0832 GMT,
lagging a 1.5 percent fall in the European healthcare sector.\
Investors are turning their attention to data on Kadcyla and
Perjeta in combination in first-line breast cancer, as well as
interim data on a drug called GA101 in non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Six weeks ago, Roche said bitopertin, an experimental drug designed
to treat schizophrenia, failed to meet its main goal in two
Roche has pushed ahead with plans to develop "follow-on" medicines
which it hopes will replace or breathe new life into older
treatments. It is banking on a strong ramp-up of these products to
defend its market share once copycat versions of biotech drugs known
as biosimilars arrive.
Four weeks ago, Roche kept investors guessing on how it would spend
its copious cash pile after a lower-than-expected dividend payout,
seen by some analysts as a sign the Swiss pharmaceuticals group
might be keeping its cash for deals.