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Setback in Lung Cancer Treatment: Merck's Experimental Therapy Fails to Meet Trial Goal

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Ayanna Amadi
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Setback in Lung Cancer Treatment: Merck's Experimental Therapy Fails to Meet Trial Goal

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The Unmet Goal in Mid-stage Study

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In a recent mid-stage study, Merck's experimental therapy, used in combination with Keytruda, to treat a type of lung cancer in previously treated patients, failed to meet the main goal. The experimental drug, vibostolimab, did not meaningfully slow disease progression or improve overall survival in patients with metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer. This marks a significant setback in the field of an emerging class of therapies called anti-TIGIT.

Merck's Anti-TIGIT Drug Vibostolimab

Vibostolimab, Merck's experimental anti-TIGIT drug, was combined with its blockbuster drug Keytruda in the study. However, the combination failed to meaningfully slow disease progression and improve overall survival in patients with non-small-cell lung cancer that spreads to other organs of the body. This information underscores the latest developments in cancer treatment research and the challenges faced by companies in this field.

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Other Pharmaceutical Companies in the Race

Half a dozen drugmakers, including Gilead Sciences, Roche, and GSK, are vying to grab a share of the lucrative cancer market. This market is focused on the TIGIT receptor protein, believed to help cancer cells evade immune system detection. However, this recent setback has highlighted the challenges involved in developing effective therapies.

Results from Phase 2 KeyVibe 002 Trial

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Merck announced full results from the non-registrational Phase 2 KeyVibe 002 trial evaluating a coformulation of vibostolimab and pembrolizumab for the treatment of metastatic non-small cell lung cancer. Although the study showed that this coformulation plus docetaxel extended median progression-free survival compared to those treated with docetaxel alone, it did not meet key secondary endpoints including overall survival, overall response rate, and duration of response.

Future Prospects

Despite the setback, Merck is persevering with a series of Phase III studies it had already launched for the candidate, a coformulation of vibostolimab — Merck’s TIGIT antibody — and its star checkpoint drug Keytruda. The first readout for these studies is expected to arrive in 2025, and the data from the Phase II KeyVibe-002 trial will inform the program. This underscores the ongoing efforts and determination to develop effective therapies in the fight against cancer.

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