Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) and Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK)are facing a major stumbling block in their joint development of gastric cancer immunotherapy drug, Bavencio.
The two companies have been carrying out trials aimed at extending the lives of patients suffering from gastric cancer. The aim of the pipeline treatment was to provide better performance than the standard chemotherapy treatments. Pfizer and Merck announced on Tuesday that Bavencio failed to achieve the primary objective of extending the survival rate in patients with recurring cancer even after previous treatments. This is despite the fact that Bavencio was awarded regulatory approval for treating bladder cancer and a rare type of skin cancer.
The two pharmaceutical companies are expected to release the data from the clinical trials at a scientific conference whose date has not yet been confirmed. The failure of the clinical trials is a noteworthy setback on Pfizer and Merck’s plan to expand Bavencio sales. Luciano Rossetti, the CEO of Merck pegged the failure of the drug to their decision to run the tests against chemo treatments that are currently in the markets instead of using a placebo.
“Gastric cancer in the third-line setting is a particularly hard-to-treat and heterogeneous disease, and importantly, this was the first trial conducted with a checkpoint inhibitor compared to an active chemotherapy comparator rather than placebo in a global patient population,” stated Luciano.
The trials for the gastric cancer treatment had 371 volunteering patients from different regions including North America, South America, Australia, Europe and Asia. There were a total of 147 sites spread out in those regions where the trials were carried out. Bavencio belongs to a class of treatments known as PD-1 or PD-L1 inhibitors. They are designed to strengthen the immune system so that it can block the mechanism that is used by tumors to avoid being detected.Umer Raffat, an analyst at Evercore ISI stated that the clinical trial was a very high risk from the very beginning and as such, the expectations were low.
Pfizer stock closed the latest trading session on Tuesday at $35.85 after a 0.99 percent gain from the previous close.