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Erbitux closer to head and neck cancer approval

Published on 01/03/06 at 11:17am

Merck KGaA's targeted cancer treatment Erbitux has moved a step closer to receiving EU approval to extend its licence to head and neck cancer.

The colorectal cancer treatment was given a position opinion by the EMEA's Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) based on clinical trial results showing it improved patient survival rates.

The phase III trial found that combining Erbitux (cetuximab) with radiotherapy allowed patients to live on average 20 months longer than when Erbitux wasn't added to their treatment.

Every year over 100,000 people in Europe are diagnosed with head and neck cancer and with currently approved treatments only about a third of those will survive after five years.

Merck's deputy member of the executive board, business sector pharmaceuticals, Elmar Schnee said: "We believe that Erbitux is one of the most significant advances in the treatment of head and neck cancer in the last 30 years.

"It offers the potential for improved control and prolonged survival in this challenging disease."

Erbitux was first approved in the EU in June 2004 in combination with Aventis' Campto (irinotecan) for the treatment of patients with EGFR-expressing metastatic colorectal cancer after failure of irinotecan-including cytotoxic therapy.

The monoclonal antibody is one of a class of new cancer drugs which target genetic mutations which allow cancer cells to multiply, and is designed to bypass many of the unpleasant side-effects associated with traditional chemotherapy.

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