Five straight failures for Eli Lilly as lung cancer combo flops in PhIII

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The drumbeat of late-stage failures at Eli Lilly ($LLY) continued today as the company announced that a combo approach to non-small cell lung cancer had failed to deliver improved overall survival times in Phase III. Investigators had set out to determine if Lilly's Alimta combined with Roche's ($RHHBY) Avastin and chemo would work better than Avastin and chemo in combating cancer, but came up far short when the data came in.

The study did find that the Alimta arm achieved an improved rate of progression-free survival. But in the overall survival category the Alimta arm did worse than the comparison group, with a median overall survival rate of 12.6 months versus 13.4 months for patients on the paclitaxel arm.

"Phase II results with this combination were promising and we were hoping to demonstrate an improvement in survival for nonsquamous NSCLC patients, so we are disappointed with the results of this trial," said Allen S. Melemed, senior medical director with Lilly Oncology. "POINTBREAK did show an improvement in progression-free survival, though this did not translate to an overall survival advantage."

For Lilly, the news from the late-stage pipeline has been consistently awful, with 5 straight failures. In just a matter of days it has been forced to write off its late-stage schizophrenia drug pomaglumetad methionil, also known as mGlu2/3; the Alzheimer's drug solanezumab failed both primary endpoints; an effort to expand a weak Effient market ran into a brick wall when it failed a head-to-head study with Plavix; and Forteo failed a comparative study for pain among post-menopausal women.

Lilly's ($LLY) dreadful run in the clinic hasn't even made a dent in its share price, which hit a 52-week high today. Investigators attracted some positive attention for a secondary analysis of solanezumab, and analysts like Bernstein's Tim Anderson say they're impressed by the pharma giant's prospects. Its stock jumped 55 cents this morning to $46.36.

The latest data will be presented at the Chicago Multidisciplinary Symposium in Thoracic Oncology tomorrow.

- here's the press release

Special Reports: Alimta - Top 10 Best-selling Cancer Drugs in 2011 | Eli Lilly - The Biggest R&D Spenders In Biopharma

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