Amgen shutters Vectibix trial on safety questions

Shares of biotech giant Amgen took a beating after researchers announced late Thursday that they were pulling the plug on a trial adding Vectibix to chemotherapy and Avastin for metastatic colorectal cancer. Amgen shares dropped 4.3 percent in pre-market trading when an interim analysis of the data showed that the control arm had a statistically significant advantage in progression-free survival.

"We had hoped that adding Vectibix to the current U.S. standard-of-care for patients newly diagnosed with (metastatic colorectal cancer) would improve outcomes without excessive added toxicity," said Roger Perlmutter, Amgen's executive vice president of research and development, in a statement. "Unfortunately, it appears that adding Vectibix to Avastin, when used in combination with oxaliplatin- or irinotecan-based chemotherapy, increased toxicity without improving efficacy," he added.

The news proved a tonic for ImClone, which makes Erbitux. Its shared jumped 19 percent. Merck KGaA, which markets Erbitux outside of the U.S. and Canada, also saw its shares climb.

- see Amgen's release for more
- here's the report from Dow Jones on Vectibix

ALSO: Amgen CEO Kevin Sharer made $24 million last year and Roger Perlmutter, head of R&D, took home $10 million. Report

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ImClone touts increased survival rate in Erbitux cancer trial. Report