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Lilly cancer treatment fails trial in stomach cancer

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Erbitux, a cancer treatment made by Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co.'s Imclone unit, failed to help patients with advanced stomach tumors in a late-stage clinical trial.

The trial results are a setback for German drug company Merck KGaA, which markets the treatment outside of North America. Erbitux is Merck's second-biggest-selling medicine and it was hoping an approval would expand sales.

The drug, combined with two other medicines, didn’t extend the length of time that patients lived without their disease getting worse, said Darmstadt-based Merck said in a prepared statement Thursday..

Patients in the trial, dubbed Expand, had inoperable cancer of the stomach or gastro-esophageal junction and hadn’t received prior chemotherapy or radiation, Merck said. They got Erbitux along with cisplatin, a standard chemotherapy, and the capecitabine cancer drug. Typically, they would receive only palliative chemotherapy, according to Merck.

“We are disappointed that the Expand trial did not show a benefit for patients,” the lead investigator in the study, Florian Lordick of Hannover Medical School in Germany, said in the statement. “Patients with advanced gastric cancer currently have few treatment choices and a poor prognosis, and we will continue to investigate other treatment options for these patients in the hope of being able to offer improved outcomes.”

Merck rang up $1.1 billion in Erbitux sales last year, making it the company’s second-biggest-selling product after Rebif for multiple sclerosis. It’s approved for colorectal cancer as well as tumors of the head and neck.

Lilly and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. market the drug in the United States and Canada, while Merck promotes it and sells it elsewhere. Lilly said it realized total revenue of $409 million from Erbitux in 2011.

Merck has applied for approval to sell the drug for lung cancer in the European Union. The company said May 9 that Erbitux failed to show a benefit for stage-three colon cancer patients when given with chemotherapy as a way to prevent the cancer’s return following tumor removal, compared with chemotherapy alone.

The study included 904 patients in 25 countries, Merck said. Gastric cancer is the second leading cause of cancer- related death worldwide, leading to more than 700,000 deaths a year, Merck said.

Lilly shares were down 25 cents Thursday morning, to $42.91 each.

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  1. to mention the rest of Molly's experience- she served as Communications Director for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and also did communications for the state. She's incredibly qualified for this role and has a real love for Indianapolis and Indiana. Best of luck to her!

  2. Shall we not demand the same scrutiny for law schools, med schools, heaven forbid, business schools, etc.? How many law school grads are servers? How many business start ups fail and how many business grads get low paying jobs because there are so few high paying positions available? Why does our legislature continue to demean public schools and give taxpayer dollars to charters and private schools, ($171 million last year), rather than investing in our community schools? We are on a course of disaster regarding our public school attitudes unless we change our thinking in a short time.

  3. I agree with the other reader's comment about the chunky tomato soup. I found myself wanting a breadstick to dip into it. It tasted more like a marinara sauce; I couldn't eat it as a soup. In general, I liked the place... but doubt that I'll frequent it once the novelty wears off.

  4. The Indiana toll road used to have some of the cleanest bathrooms you could find on the road. After the lease they went downhill quickly. While not the grossest you'll see, they hover a bit below average. Am not sure if this is indicative of the entire deal or merely a portion of it. But the goals of anyone taking over the lease will always be at odds. The fewer repairs they make, the more money they earn since they have a virtual monopoly on travel from Cleveland to Chicago. So they only comply to satisfy the rules. It's hard to hand public works over to private enterprise. The incentives are misaligned. In true competition, you'd have multiple roads, each build by different companies motivated to make theirs more attractive. Working to attract customers is very different than working to maximize profit on people who have no choice but to choose your road. Of course, we all know two roads would be even more ridiculous.

  5. The State is in a perfect position. The consortium overpaid for leasing the toll road. Good for the State. The money they paid is being used across the State to upgrade roads and bridges and employ people at at time most of the country is scrambling to fund basic repairs. Good for the State. Indiana taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the toll roads to the tune of millions a year as we had for the last 20 years because the legislature did not have the guts to raise tolls. Good for the State. If the consortium fails, they either find another operator, acceptable to the State, to buy them out or the road gets turned back over to the State and we keep the Billions. Good for the State. Pat Bauer is no longer the Majority or Minority Leader of the House. Good for the State. Anyway you look at this, the State received billions of dollars for an assett the taxpayers were subsidizing, the State does not have to pay to maintain the road for 70 years. I am having trouble seeing the downside.

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