Boehringer Ingelheim has stopped two phase III trials for its successful lung cancer drug Giotrif (afatinib) on the advice of a data monitoring committee.

The LUX-Head and Neck 2 and 4 trials were investigating the drug in the new indications of locally advanced head and neck cancer, specifically in patients who show no signs of the disease after chemotherapy. The company was hoping to show that the drug could help keep the cancer from returning, expanding the market for the big-selling medicine.

However, Boehringer says that the committee "made the assessment that it would be highly unlikely" that Giotrif, known as Gilotrif in the US, would come out as any better than placebo in the trials after disappointing initial data.

It is not all bad news for the drug though – the LUX-Head and Neck 1 study has shown positive results in recurrent and/or metastatic head and neck cancer and the LUX-Head and Neck 3 trial in Asian patients is expected to continue.

The company also says that it is still investigating Giotrif in other solid tumours.