Roche Drug Fails to Help Lung Cancer Patients in Study

Roche Holding AG will stop an advanced test on an experimental lung cancer drug because it wasn’t effective enough, throwing the once-promising therapy’s future into question.

The 499-person study had evaluated Roche’s MetMab drug combined with Tarceva in patients with non-small cell lung cancer, the Basel, Switzerland-based drugmaker said in a statement today. An independent data monitoring committee recommended that the study be stopped, Roche said. The shares fell the most in more than seven months.

The results come as a surprise because MetMab seemed to work in an earlier, smaller trial, Alistair Campbell, an analyst at Berenberg Bank, wrote in a report. MetMab is part of a pipeline of new medicines that Roche is relying on to help it keep its position as the biggest maker of cancer drugs in the world.

“These results are disappointing because new options are needed for patients with lung cancer, the most common and deadly cancer worldwide,” Sandra Horning, Roche’s head of product development, said in the statement.

Roche dropped 2 percent to 265.90 Swiss francs at 9:35 a.m. in Zurich. The stock fell as much as 2.3 percent, the biggest intraday decline since July 16, 2013.

Roche said it’s evaluating the implications on other clinical studies of MetMab, which is also known as onartuzumab. There’s a high likelihood these trials will need to be stopped as well, Andrew Weiss, a Zurich-based analyst for Bank Vontobel, wrote in a note to investors.

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