Merck halts research on combo drug for skin cancer

Merck will stop testing an experimental combination treatment for skin cancer patients in a late-stage study, the drugmaker said May 13.

Merck was evaluating the use of the investigational immunotherapy vibostolimab with its best-selling cancer drug Keytruda in patients with resected high-risk melanoma. Compared to the control group, a higher rate of patients discontinued the combination treatment due to side effects related to the immune system. Because of this trend, Merck said it was very unlikely the phase 3 trial could show a clear improvement in recurrence-free survival. 

The drugmaker plans to unblind the study and recommend patients from the experimental group be treated with Keytruda only.

Merck said it has an extensive clinical development program evaluating the safety and efficacy of vibostolimab and its pairing with other treatments. Currently, the drugmaker has four other late-stage trials underway evaluating vibostolimab and Keytruda for lung cancer. 

 "Through our clinical development program, we continue to ask the tough questions in an effort to fully explore the potential of novel coformulations and combinations that build on the foundation of Keytruda, with a goal to improve upon current standards of care and help even more patients with cancer," Marjorie Green, MD, senior vice president and head of oncology, global clinical development for Merck Research Laboratories, said in a news release.

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