Amgen Head and Neck Cancer Study: A Disappointment

Aug 10, 2010
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Amgen on Wednesday released the results of its Phase 3 clinical trial for the cancer treatment Vectibix, and the news wasn’t particularly good. According to the report, the treatment—currently approved for colorectal cancer—failed to show signs of improved survival rate in patients treated for head and neck cancer.

Amgen’s vice president of R&D, Roger Perlmutter, called the results a disappointment, but failed to elaborate on any future plans for Vectibix.

According to the data, patients taking the medication lived 11.1 months longer compared with patients on chemotherapy alone, which allowed them to live nine months longer. A secondary endpoint looking at progression-free survival was even less impressive—5.8 months versus 4.6 months.

A total of 658 patients were enrolled in the study, dubbed Spectrum, and each received either Vectibix and chemotherapy or chemo treatment alone. Patients treated with the combination treatment experienced side effects including nausea, skin rash, neutropenia, and vomiting.

Vectibix’s biggest competition is Erbitux, a colorectal treatment jointly owned by Bristol-Myers Squibb and Lilly that already received the nod from FDA to be used as a head and neck cancer treatment.

Amgen stated in a release that the disease strikes 400,000 people every year and is the sixth-most-common cancer globally. There are no effective tests to catch the cancer beforehand and success in treating it depends on the time frame in which the cancer is detected.

According to Reuters, Amgen stock dropped 2.5 percent when the news broke, and analysts are beginning to doubt Vectibix’s blockbuster potential.

A full rundown of the study will be released at the annual European Society for Medical Oncology Congress in October.