Merck KGaA Drug Fails in Late-Stage Brain Cancer Trial

Merck KGaA’s experimental tumor-fighting drug cilengitide failed to help patients with a form of brain cancer in a late-stage clinical trial, adding to recent drug-development setbacks for the company.

The medicine didn’t significantly increase survival in patients with newly diagnosed glioblastoma when added to standard chemotherapy, the Darmstadt, Germany-based drugmaker said in a statement today. Merck shares fell as much as 2.8 percent, the biggest intraday slide in two months, and were down 0.6 percent at 105 euros at 9:45 a.m. in Frankfurt.

The setback comes after the family-controlled chemicals and pharmaceuticals company said in December that a therapy known as L-BLP25 failed to improve survival significantly in lung-cancer patients.

“The results of Centric are disappointing, especially for people who are fighting this devastating and difficult-to-treat cancer,” said Annalisa Jenkins, the head of global drug development and medical for Merck’s prescription medicines division. “We remain committed to advancing our pipeline and developing new treatment options in oncology for patients with high medical need.”

Detailed results of the trial, dubbed Centric, will be submitted for presentation at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting this year.

The result is “another blow” for the Merck Serono pharmaceutical division, Odile Rundquist, an analyst at Helvea SA, said in a note to investors.

The drug is still being tested in a mid-stage clinical trial in patients with unmethylated MGMT gene promoter status. Tumors with the MGMT protein don’t respond well to treatment with temozolomide, the current standard of care.