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Nexavar fails a liver cancer test

Blockbuster drug Nexavar fails a liver cancer test

NexevarThe blockbuster cancer drug Nexavar, co-developed by South San Francisco’s Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc., failed a late-stage clinical trial in a subset of liver cancer patients.

Onyx, a subsidiary of Amgen Inc. (NASDAQ: AMGN) since a $10.5 billion buyout in October, and partner Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals Inc. said Tuesday that the Phase III trial was designed to treat hepatocellular carcinoma patients who had no detectable disease after surgical resection or local ablation.

Ablation is where heat, cold, chemicals or electricity are applied directly to the tumor to cause those cells to die.

Nexavar tablets already are approved in the United States to treat patients with unresectable liver cancer as well as advanced kidney cancer and some thyroid cancer patients.

The trial included about 1,100 patients who received Nexavar or a placebo twice a day for four years or until the cancer returned. Data from the study will be submitted for presentation at an upcoming scientific congress.

More than 780,000 cases of liver cancer — the second most-common cause of cancer death — are diagnosed worldwide each year. More than half of those cases are in China.

Ron Leuty covers biotech, higher education and China for the San Francisco Business Times.