Pancreatic cancer study failure cripples a Merrimack drug, forcing a coup de grâce and pipeline retreat

Eighteen months after Merrimack $MACK restructured, selling off its one marketed drug, switching out CEOs and circling the wagons around three key cancer drugs, the biotech has been forced to scuttle one of its priority drug programs.

Richard Peters

MM-141 (istiratumab), has failed a Phase II pancreatic cancer study after investigators paired it with nab-paclitaxel and gemcitabine against the standard combo alone. There are no data in the statement, but the company said the drug flat failed on the primary and secondary endpoints, with nothing encouraging to report in the subgroup analysis.

Shares tanked on the news, dropping 34% in pre-market trading.

The study recruited frontline patients with high serum levels of free Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1). The disease and that particular patient group has proven to be one of the toughest to treat, making this a high-risk effort under the best of circumstances. The drug is a bi-specific anti-IGF-1R/ERBB3 antibody.

The setback marks a serious blow for Merrimack, which was forced to restructure and lay off a big chunk of its workforce.

CEO Richard Peters is left with a reduced pipeline with two key drugs: MM-121 and MM-310.

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