) recently suffered a setback when it announced that an
independent data monitoring committee has recommended that its
phase III study, METLung, on oncology candidate onartuzumab
(MetMab) should be stopped due to lack of clinically meaningful
Shares were down 4.38% on the news. The study evaluated the
impact of onartuzumab in combination with Tarceva in extending
the life span of patients with previously treated, advanced
non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) vis-à-vis only Tarceva. These
patients had MET+ tumors.
The interim data analysis showed that the overall adverse
event rates were generally similar between the two groups. The
detailed data from the study will be presented later.
Consequently, Roche is evaluating the implications of the
METLung study results to decide on the future development of
As per estimates from the World Health Organization, NSCLC
accounts for 85% of all lung cancers.
We note that Tarceva was one of the top selling drugs of Roche
in 2013, generating sales of $1.3 billion, up 4% from a year ago.
Hence, the results from the phase III study were disappointing as
the successful development of onartuzumab would have boosted
Roche's strong portfolio of oncology drugs.
We note that onartuzumab is also being evaluated for the
treatment of metastatic HER2-negative gastric cancer (currently
in phase III), first line non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer
and squamous non-small cell lung cancer (both in phase II) and
metastatic colorectal cancer (currently in phase II) among
Roche currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Some
better-ranked stocks in the pharma industry include
). While Auxilium Pharma is a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) stock,
the other two carry a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).
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