* Fails to improve overall survival goal
* Study tested Nexavar as initial treatment
* Bayer confirms peak sales potential exceeding 2 bln eur
* Bayer shares down 1 pct, Onyx down 5.7 pct in Frankfurt
(Adds analyst comment, Onyx shares)
By Ludwig Burger
FRANKFURT, June 14 Bayer (BAYGn.DE) and Onyx
Pharmaceuticals ONXX.O failed to show in a late-stage study
that their Nexavar cancer drug prolongs the lives of
lung-tumour patients, the largest target group in the cancer
The Nexavar pill, used in combination with chemotherapy,
did not improve overall survival when used as an initial, or
first-line, treatment to combat non-small cell lung cancer
(NSCLC), which was the main goal of the Phase III trial, the
two companies said in a statement on Monday.
Nexavar, already approved for kidney and liver tumours, is
one of Bayer's most promising new drugs, and Bayer has said it
expects the drug to generate combined annual sales of more than
2 billion euros, an assessment the company reaffirmed on
Still, Nexavar helped patients to have longer periods
without tumour growth, which was a secondary goal of the drug
trial, according to the statement.
Bayer's shares were little changed at 47.81 euros, while
Onyx shares rose 4.1 percent to $23.77 on Nasdaq.
Onyx investors had expected the trial to fail, and some of
them likely took short positions representing bearish bets
against the company, Morgan Joseph analyst Shiv Kapoor said.
"People were shorting the stock into the event and now that
the event is over they're taking their shorts away, so it's a
short-covering rally," Kapoor said.
Nexavar together with chemotherapy was compared with
chemotherapy and a placebo in the study, the companies said.
By targeting the market for first-line treatment of lung
cancer, Bayer had challenged Swiss drugmaker Roche's ROG.VX
Avastin injection, which is approved as an initial treatment
for some lung cancer patients when used with chemotherapy.
Roche shares rose 0.4 percent.
UNCHANGED SALES POTENTIAL
Bayer said it would continue to explore the use of Nexavar
against lung cancer, which is the most common form of cancer
and among the most difficult to treat.
Bayer will continue studies with lung-cancer patients who
could not be helped by other forms of treatment, which,
according to DZ Bank analyst Peter Spengler, still constitute a
"We see high market potential but also very low chances of
success," Spengler said.
"It is rather unlikely that Nexavar will become approved
for the treatment of lung cancer," Merck Finck & Co. analyst
Carsten Kunold said.
Attempts to show Nexavar helps quell lung tumours as an
initial treatment already hit a snag in 2008, when another
Phase III trial was halted on lack of efficacy and also on some
Before that study was stopped, Bayer's estimated sales of
Nexavar in non-small cell lung cancer had been 750 million
Nexavar is also being tested on breast cancer patients.
(Reporting by Ludwig Burger; additional reporting by Lewis
Krauskopf in New York; editing by David Cowell and Gunna