After a portfolio review, Spain's Zeltia says its PharmaMar unit has decided to suspend development of one of its marine-based cancer drugs, Irvalec, and concentrate on advancing five drugs, including the already-approved Yondelis.

The Madrid-based group noted that Phase II data from trials of Irvalec showed that the drug demonstrated significant activity as a treatment for large cell undifferentiated carcinoma of the oesophagus. However, PharmaMar pointed out that the tumour subtype occurs in less than 1% of cancers of the oesophagus so carrying on is not commercially viable.

The company will put its cash into further development of Yondelis (trabectedin), which is already approved in Europe for advanced soft tissue sarcoma (STS) and relapsed platinum-sensitive ovarian cancer. It is also in Phase III as a first-line treatment of STS.

Two other key drugs for PharmaMar are Aplidin (plitidepsin), which is in Phase III for multiple myeloma and Phase II for T cell lymphoma, and Zalypsis, which is in Phase II for MM and Ewing's sarcoma. Making up the five compounds are two early-stage antitumour agents PM060184 and PM01183, for which impressive preliminary data have been seen.