Merck KGaA tries again on Erbitux for lung cancer

If at first you don't succeed, try again with a smaller patient group. That's the approach Merck KGaA is taking with Erbitux, after losing one bid to broaden use of the drug to lung cancer patients. In a new application for expanded use, Merck proposes Erbitux as a treatment for patients with a particular type of tumor, about one-fourth of the population it previously targeted.

As Reuters reports, Merck asked European regulators to consider Erbitux as a treatment for non-small cell lung cancers with high expression of epidermal growth factor receptor, or EGFR. Proper patients can be identified via a genetic test of their tumors. Erbitux is already approved to treat colorectal cancer and head and neck cancer.

The new application is based on a re-analysis of data in the lung cancer study Merck originally submitted to authorities. In sifting through that data, the company found that 44 percent of EGFR-positive patients treated with Erbitux had tumors that shrank over the study period. Only 28 percent of patients in the control group had tumor shrinkage, the news service reports.

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