Glaxo suffers setback in trials for its new vaccine for cancer

City A.M. Reporter
AN EXPERIMENTAL cancer vaccine from GlaxoSmithKline failed to help melanoma patients in a closely watched late-stage clinical trial, dealing a blow to the pharma giant’s high-risk, high-reward project.

Britain’s biggest drugmaker said yesterday that it would continue with the Phase III trial of its Mage-A3 therapeutic vaccine to see if it benefited a subset of patients with a particular genetic signature.

The trial has two joint targets, known as co-primary endpoints, looking at both the broad population and a patient subset, so it is possible the treatment will yet prove effective for a small number of people with the deadly skin cancer. It is also being tested in lung cancer.

The vaccine is one of two particularly high-risk developmental GSK products that industry analysts believe could, in theory, become multi-billion pound sellers. The other is a heart drug called darapladib, designed to fight clogged arteries in a different way to statins.

In both cases, however, analysts have been wary of modelling firm sales forecasts, given the above-average risk of failure. Shares in GSK closed down 0.8 per cent at 1,652.5p.

Shares in its US partner Agenus fell off a cliff upon opening, losing 33 per cent, reflecting the high hopes riding on the project at the small biotech firm. Agenus provides one of the components in GSK’s vaccine.

Cancer vaccines have proved difficult to develop over the years. A vaccine for lung cancer from Merck also failed in a clinical test last December.