News Feature | April 3, 2014

GSK Halts Trial For Immunotherapy Cancer Treatment

By Marcus Johnson

UK based drug producer GlaxoSmithKline has dealt with a variety of setbacks in its recent clinical trials. The latest setback is with its new immunotherapy cancer treatment, MAGE-A3. According to the Wall Street Journal, the company found that MAGE-A3 wasn't able to increase survival rates among patients with non-small cell lung cancer, which is a common form of lung cancer. Immunotherapies are fairly new, and they are different from existing treatments because they don't use chemotherapy or radiotherapy to attack cancer cells. Instead, immunotherapies aim to attack cancer cells with the body's own immune system.

Although GSK's drug had subpar results initially, the company continued the trials in hopes that there could be a smaller segment of patients that would benefit from the treatment. The company has now determined that the drug isn't having the impact it needs to and has scrapped the trials. MAGE-3 failed a GSK trial for patients with melanoma last year. The company is still trying to find a smaller segment of patients in which the treatment might be effective.

This latest disappointment for GSK was a significant blow to the company, which has already been struggling with falling sales due to established drugs losing patent protection, WSJ says. Indeed, some of GSK’s rivals have been seeing some early success with their research into immunotherapy. Roche, Bristol-Myers, and Merck have all had more success in their trials with immunotherapy drugs, leading to rising stock prices for the companies.

The failed trial is just one of many recent disappointments for the company. GSK has also had to face U.S. regulators, who, in March, issued a warning letter to the company for failing an inspection of their Ireland manufacturing plant. The plant was found to have contaminated drugs with materials from the waste tank on site.