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Novartis drug shows no survival benefit in liver cancer

ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss drugmaker Novartis said on Wednesday its drug Afinitor did not show a survival benefit in patients with advanced liver cancer.

Data from a late-stage trial found that Afinitor did not extend overall survival compared with placebo in patients with locally advanced or metastatic hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of liver cancer.

The study was examining the efficacy and safety of Afinitor, which is also known as everolimus, in patients whose disease had progressed after treatment with or were intolerant to Onyx and Bayer's drug Nexavar.

"While we are disappointed with these results, Novartis remains committed to studying everolimus through a robust research and development program to address unmet needs in different types of cancer," said Alessandro Riva, Global Head of Oncology Development & Medical Affairs at Novartis Oncology.

Novartis is also conducting trials for Afinitor in gastrointestinal and lung neuroendocrine tumors, HER2-positive breast cancer, lymphoma and tuberous sclerosis complex, a rare genetic disease that causes tumors to grow in the brain and other vital organs. Results are expected in 2014 and 2015.

The drug is already approved for the treatment of advanced renal cell carcinoma and advanced pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors and advanced hormone-receptor positive, HER2-negative breast cancer.

Novartis is banking on new drugs like Afinitor and multiple sclerosis pill Gilenya to help it compensate for patent losses. Sales of Afinitor shot up 76 percent in the second quarter to $308 million.

(Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by David Cowell)

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