Shares in Ariad rocketed more than 30% yesterday on news that its experimental drug ridaforolimus - which is being developed in partnership with Merck & Co in numerous cancer indications - hit its goals in a late-stage trial involving patients with sarcoma.

The company said that data from the SUCCEED trial, which randomised patients with metastatic soft-tissue or bone sarcomas who were previously responsive to chemotherapy to receive either ridaforolimus or a ghost pill, showed that the drug induced a significant reduction - 28% - in the risk of disease progression compared to placebo.

Results also showed that patients treated with ridaforolimus - an oral MTOR inhibitor - had a significant 21% improvement in median progression free survival of 17.7 weeks, versus 14.6 weeks in the placebo arm.

Shareholders were evidently delighted with the news as Merck, which bought rights to the development programme in 2007, is planning to file for marketing approval of ridaforolimus later this year, as soon as all the available data and analyses from the trial, which is still ongoing, have been collected.  

According Cowen & Co analyst Phil Nadeau, the results "are solid, and likely to get ridaforolimus on the market”, and if approved, he predicts that the drug will pull in sales of about $365 million by 2015 for Ariad and Merck, Bloomberg reported.

There are currently very limited treatment options for patients with sarcomas - a relatively rare group of cancers of connective tissue of the body - and so the need for new and effective therapies is great. And as Harvey Berger, Ariad's chairman and chief executive pointed out, the data from the trial "illustrate how devastating metastatic sarcomas can be, even in patients who have responded favorably to conventional chemotherapy".