Merck KGaA reports another R&D setback with PhIII brain cancer failure

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In yet another sign that the R&D side of Merck KGaA has derailed and can't get back on track, the pharma giant today said that a late-stage study of a brain cancer drug hopeful had failed to demonstrate signs of efficacy.

Company shares slid about 3% on the news that cilengitide failed to produce an improved survival rate in patients with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. The company had partnered with the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer for the study. Final data will be delivered during an upcoming ASCO meeting.

About two years ago Merck KGaA had to admit the embarrassing failure of the MS drug cladribine, once considered a leader in the race to develop new oral drugs. Since then, the Big Pharma company has been reorganizing its research operations, relocating or laying off staffers and bringing in new personnel to run R&D. But its track record remains mired in failure, including the recent demise of Stimuvax, a weak cancer vaccine that also failed in Phase III.  

"These results illustrate how challenging this disease remains, and that thorough clinical investigations like in this study are crucial before adopting new treatment strategies," said the lead investigator and president of the EORTC, Professor Roger Stupp. "Nevertheless, the unique collaboration between academia and industry was key in establishing molecular tumor characterization towards personalized medicine. And it allows for investigation of mechanisms of disease, and identifying novel targets and combinations for the future."

Cilengitide is still being studied in Phase II.

- here's the press release

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