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Bayer’s Liver Cancer Drug to Be Tested Against Sirtex

Bayer AG’s Nexavar treatment for advanced liver cancer will be tested against a radiotherapy made by Sirtex Medical Ltd. in a final-stage study of patients in the Asia-Pacific region.

A total of 360 patients with inoperable liver cancer in 13 countries will receive either Nexavar or Sydney-based Sirtex’s SIR-Spheres, Singapore’s National Cancer Centre, the trial organizer, said in an e-mailed statement today.

“We hope to conclude which therapy is more beneficial to patients in terms of better survival, tumor shrinkage and quality of life,” Pierce Chow, who will lead the study, said in the statement. “This therapy will then serve as first line and the other as second-line treatment.”

About 80 percent of liver cancer cases occur in the Asia-Pacific region, and most people are diagnosed too late for surgery, according to the World Health Organization. The cancer kills about 610,000 people worldwide each year, making it the fourth most-deadly tumor, the United Nations agency said.

A previous trial that combined the two treatments extended patients’ lives by almost a year, a result that was better than either product on its own, according to the statement. The results were first presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s conference in Chicago last month.

Liver cancer is caused mainly by the hepatitis B and C viruses, which are transmitted through blood or sexual contact and attack the organ, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute. Left untreated, patients with advanced liver cancer have a median survival of about three months, the Singapore Cancer Centre said in the statement.

Microscopic Beads

SIR-Spheres are injectable microscopic polymer beads designed to shrink tumors by carrying a radiotherapy drug directly to them, avoiding the damage to healthy tissue that’s caused by conventional radiotherapy.

Bayer, of Leverkusen, Germany, co-markets Nexavar with New York-based Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Sirtex fell 4.3 percent to A$5.08 in Australian trading. The stock has lost 33 percent this year after surging more than fourfold in 2009.

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