Roche has suffered a major setback in the clinic after the failure in a late-stage lung cancer trial for MetMab, its closely-observed investigational one-armed monoclonal antibody.

An independent data monitoring committee has recommended that the Phase III METLung study be stopped due to a lack of clinically meaningful efficacy. The study evaluated if MetMab (onartuzumab) in combination with Roche's Tarceva (erlotinib) helped patients with previously treated, advanced non-small cell lung cancer whose tumours were identified as MET-positive live longer compared to Tarceva alone.

Overall adverse event rates were generally similar between the two groups, the Swiss major noted, adding that it is evaluating the implications of the results across the ongoing onartuzumab clinical programme. The data will be submitted for presentation at a forthcoming medical meeting.

Roche's chief medical officer Sandra Horning said that "these results are disappointing because new options are needed for patients with lung cancer, the most common and deadly cancer worldwide". She added that the firm remains committed to this area and is studying "several investigational medicines in this disease".