Merck Serono has presented some more strong mid-stage data on its Stimuvax lung cancer vaccine which has already entered Phase III trials.

Three-year survival data from a Phase II trial for Stimuvax, presented at the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer congress in Seoul, South Korea, suggest that the vaccine, combined with best supportive care (BSC), may provide survival benefits to patients with unresectable NSCLC who had either responded or had stable disease after initial radio-chemotherapy compared to patients getting BSC alone.

More than twice as many patients were still alive at three years in the Stimuvax arm compared to BSC alone (17 patients versus 8), representing a 45% reduction in mortality. Also those people with unresectable stage III NSCLC who received the vaccine experienced a 17.3 month difference in median survival compared to patients receiving just BSC.

The survival data are encouraging, noted Charles Butts of the Cross Cancer Institute, Canada and lead investigator on the study, and they “support the need for further investigation via the ongoing Phase III trial of Stimuvax as a maintenance therapy for patients with advanced lung cancer”. That study, called START, is currently open for enrolment and is expected to involve more than 1,300 patients in some 30 countries.

Last month Merck Serono and its Canadian partner Biomira amended their collaboration on Stimuvax, giving the former worldwide marketing rights to the treatment and making it entirely responsible for further clinical development. In return Biomira will receive development and sales-based milestone payments and royalties.