* Lung cancer trial with MAGE-A3 therapeutic vaccine stopped
* Not possible to find patient sub-group that might benefit
* Research into vaccine's use in melanoma continues
* GSK shares down 0.7 percent
(Adds analyst reaction, latest share price)
By Ben Hirschler
LONDON, April 2 GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK)
has stopped a high-profile clinical trial using a novel
vaccine to fight lung cancer after deciding it will not be
possible to find a sub-group of patients who might benefit.
The decision comes less than two weeks after GSK said the
MAGE-A3 therapeutic vaccine did not help patients with non-small
cell lung cancer in the Phase III study overall, but it was
still looking for improvements among patients with a particular
In the event, scientists analysing the trial decided there
was insufficient treatment effect to pinpoint benefit in such
Vincent Brichard, head of immunotherapeutics at GSK
Vaccines, who announced the decision on Wednesday, said he was
"extremely disappointed" by the result.
Identifying a sub-group for whom MAGE-A3 would work had been
considered a long shot by investors. Nonetheless, Citi analyst
Andrew Baum said the latest setback removed "important
optionality" for future sales and profits.
A second trial testing the vaccine in melanoma, which also
failed to help patients overall, will continue to investigate
benefits in sub-populations. However, the commercial opportunity
in melanoma is only 20 to 30 percent that of lung cancer,
according to Citi.
The outcome of the melanoma research is expected in 2015.
Unlike traditional preventative vaccines, the MAGE-A3
treatment was designed for people with established disease,
helping their immune systems to prevent the return of disease
Other companies, including Bristol-Myers Squibb Co,
Roche Holding AG and Merck & Co Inc, have had
some recent notable successes in clinical trials of innovative
drugs to boost the immune system, but GSK's vaccine-based
approach is different and has met with less success.
Shares in Britain's biggest drugmaker were 0.7 percent lower
at 0750 GMT, underperforming a 0.3 percent decline in the
European drugs sector..
MAGE-A3 is one of two high-risk, high-reward research
projects that GSK has invested heavily in over recent years - so
far, to little avail.
Its experimental heart drug darapladib, which fights clogged
arteries in a novel way, has also failed to hit its goals in a
late-stage clinical trial, although GSK still hopes a second
study may succeed.
U.S.-based Agenus Inc has contributed technology to
GSK's MAGE-A3 vaccine and its shares are sensitive to news on
the project. The vaccine contains Agenus' QS-21 Stimulon
adjuvant, or booster.
(Editing by Paul Sandle and David Holmes)