EMD Serono, a subsidiary of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, announced today that the Phase III START trial of its investigational product L-BLP25 (formerly referred to as Stimuvax®) in patients with unresectable, locally advanced stage IIIA or IIIB non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) did not meet its primary endpoint to demonstrate a statistically significant improvement in overall survival (OS).
Despite not meeting the primary endpoint, notable treatment effects were seen for L-BLP25 in certain subgroups.
Patient safety in the START trial was monitored frequently by an independent data monitoring committee and no new or unexpected safety concerns were noted for the study. In prior clinical studies, the most frequently reported adverse events included injection site reactions, flu-like symptoms, nausea, cough, fatigue, and dyspnea.
Further analyses are planned in the coming weeks to explore the potential benefit-risk profile of L-BLP25 in certain populations. This data will be discussed with external experts and regulatory authorities over the coming months. The START study results will be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal and presented at a future international scientific meeting.
The ongoing clinical program of L-BLP25 that includes studies in the Asia Pacific region will continue pending discussion with relevant regulatory agencies.
"It is disappointing that the START trial did not meet its primary endpoint, in particular for patients suffering from NSCLC," said Dr. Frances Shepherd, Scott Taylor Chair in Lung Cancer Research at the Princess Margaret Hospital and Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto, Canada, and Coordinating Investigator of the START trial. "However, notable treatment effects were observed in certain subgroups of patients and warrant further investigation of L-BLP25."
"We believe that the START study will offer important scientific insights to the potential for immunotherapies in the treatment of this devastating disease and we intend to discuss these data with scientific community and regulatory authorities to gain their advice on potential next steps," said Dr. Annalisa Jenkins, Head of Global Drug Development and Medical for Merck Serono, a division of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany.
START was a randomized, multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial that assessed the efficacy, safety and tolerability of L-BLP25 in more than 1,500 patients with unresectable stage III NSCLC who had achieved response or stable disease after chemoradiotherapy.