Merck, Ariad drug delays sarcoma progress in trial

Mon Jun 6, 2011 7:35am EDT

* 28 pct reduction in the risk of progression or death

* 6 deaths due to lung disorders in ridaforolimus group

CHICAGO, June 6 (Reuters) - An experimental drug developed by Merck & Co Inc (MRK.N) and Ariad Pharmaceuticals Inc (ARIA.O) reduced by 28 percent the risk of disease progression or death for patients with advanced sarcoma in a pivotal clinical trial.

The oral drug, ridaforolimus, was tested as maintenance therapy in patients with metastatic soft-tissue or bone sarcomas who had a favorable response to chemotherapy.

The companies announced in January that the 711-patient trial had met its goal. Full results were presented here on Monday at a meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

An independent review committee said the median progression-free survival was 17.7 weeks for ridaforolimus patients, compared with 14.6 weeks for the placebo group.

At the most recent data cut-off, median overall survival for treated patients was 21.4 months, compared to 19.2 months for the placebo group.

The most common side effects included low blood platelet levels, mouth sores, and anemia.

There were six deaths (1.8 percent) due to pulmonary disorders in the ridaforolimus treatment group and no deaths due to pulmonary disorders in the placebo group.

Ridaforolimus is designed to block a protein called mTOR, which acts as a central regulator of cancer cell survival and proliferation.

Merck plans to submit a marketing application for ridaforolimus to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Union this year.

(Reporting by Deena Beasley; editing by Gunna Dickson)

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