Sanofi-Aventis and partner Regeneron Pharmaceuticals have pulled a late-stage trial of aflibercept for metastatic pancreatic cancer, but are not giving up on the compound in other cancers.

The trial was discontinued, the companies said, after an independent data monitoring committee said that aflibercept in combination with Eli Lilly’s chemotherapy Gemzar (gemcitabine) “would be unable to demonstrate a statistically significant improvement” in the primary endpoint of overall survival compared to placebo plus gemcitabine”. The types and frequencies of adverse events were “generally as expected”, said Sanofi, which said that a detailed analysis of the results will be presented at a future medical meeting.

The French drugmaker noted that the disease “is among the most intractable” of cancers and head of R&D Marc Cluzel acknowledged that “we are disappointed with the result of this study and…will continue our efforts to bring new and effective treatments for these patients”. However he added that “we remain committed to the other ongoing Phase III trials of aflibercept in colorectal cancer, non-small cell lung cancer and hormone-refractory metastatic prostate cancer." Each of those three studies are “currently over 70% enrolled”.

In June, Sanofi and Regeneron decided not to submit data from a mid-stage study of aflibercept for advanced ovarian cancer, saying the data, while positive, came from too small a group of patients.

Better news for Sanofi came with the presentation of promising data on its oral multiple sclerosis drug teriflunomide.

Findings from a Phase II trial, presented at the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis congress in Dusseldorf, revealed that teriflunomide, when added to interferon-beta, showed acceptable tolerance and safety, plus significant improvements of the disease.

Specifically, patients enjoyed a 56% and 81% reduction in cerebral inflammatory lesions on 7mg and 14mg of teriflunomide compared to those on placebo, as measured by MRI scans. Sanofi quoted investigator Mark Freedman of the University of Ottawa as saying that the results “encourage longer-term studies to establish the clinical benefit of combination treatment in this disease where effective new therapies are eagerly awaited".

Teriflunomide is currently being evaluated in Phase III studies as a monotherapy.