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Onyx, Astellas say liver drug combination fails

NEW YORK (AP) -- A group of three drugmakers said Monday that a combination of their cancer pills Tarceva and Nexavar did not meet their main goal in a late-stage clinical trial.

Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc., Bayer AG, and Astellas Pharma Inc. said patients who took Nexavar and Tarceva did not live longer than patients who only took Nexavar. The trial compared the two drugs in 720 patients who had inoperable hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common type of primary liver cancer.

Nexavar is used to treat liver and kidney cancer, and it is marketed by Onyx and Bayer. Tarceva is approved as a maintenance treatment for non-small cell lung cancer and a secondary treatment for pancreatic cancer. The drug is marketed by Astellas and Genentech, a unit of Swiss drugmaker Roche.

The companies said no new side effects of the drugs were reported. Patients in the trial took two Nexavar pills per day and a Tarceva pill, or two Nexavar pills and a placebo.

Shares of Onyx, which is based in South San Francisco, Calif., rose 44 cents to $76.82 in morning trading. The other companies do not trade in the U.S.