Merck KGaA’s bid to build sales for its cancer drug Erbitux (cetuximab) took a bashing this week after a late-stage clinical trial in advanced stomach tumours failed to show a significant benefit in progression-free survival.

It is the second blow for Erbitux this year. Back in May the company said there was no additional benefit when given with chemotherapy to colon cancer patients after surgery to remove their tumour.

The trial looked at Erbitux in combination with cisplatin and capecitabine in patients who had not previously received either chemotherapy or radiation treatment.

“We are disappointed that the EXPAND trial did not show a benefit for patients with advanced gastric cancer when Erbitux was added to standard chemotherapy. Patients with advanced gastric cancer currently have few treatment choices and a poor prognosis, and we will continue to investigate other treatment options for these patients in the hope of being able to offer improved outcomes,” said lead investigator Professor Florian Lordick of Klinikum Braunschweig, Hannover Medical School, Germany.

Merck pulled in 855 million euros for Erbitux last year but analysts are now forecasting limited further growth for the drug.