(Marketwatch) Merck KGaA and Pfizer Inc. said on Thursday that avelumab, a cancer immunotherapy, failed to meet the primary objective of a phase 3 trial in patients with a type of lung cancer.
The trial didn’t meet the endpoint of improving overall survival in patients whose tumors are PD-L1 positive, the companies said.
The Javelin Lung 200 trial compared avelumab to docetaxel, a chemotherapy drug, in patients with advanced non-small-cell lung carcinoma, or NSCLC, whose cancer had progressed after receiving another form of treatment.
Avelumab, marketed as Bavencio, has been approved to treat Merkel cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer, and urothelial carcinoma, a type of bladder cancer.
There are other clinical trials investigating avelumab alone or in combination with other treatments for lung cancer, and clinical programs evaluating it in other tumor types.
“We will continue to progress the broad avelumab program, exploring various indications,” said Chris Boshoff, head of immuno-oncology for Pfizer.
Despite the setback, avelumab still has blockbuster potential, said Luciano Rossetti, global head of research and development at Merck KGaA’s biopharmaceutical division. The results of another trial, Javelin Lung 100, which is investigating avelumab as a first-line therapy in NSCLC, are more important, he said, and those results are expected by mid-2019.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.
Merck and Pfizer are co-developing and co-commercializing avelumab.