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ImClone Says Erbitux, Chemo Combination Lifts Survival Rate

Biotech drug maker ImClone Systems and drug maker Bristol-Myers Squibb said Wednesday data shows their cancer drug Erbitux, when combined with chemotherapy, allows head and neck cancer patients to live longer.

The late-stage trial tested Erbitux as a first-line treatment for advanced head and neck cancer. Erbitux is already approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat head and neck cancer in combination with radiation treatments, or when platinum-based chemotherapy already has failed.

It is also approved to treat colorectal cancer.

In a 400-patient Phase III clinical trial, head and neck cancer patients were given Erbitux and chemotherapy or chemotherapy alone. The study met its primary endpoint, which was increased overall survival in the Erbitux group.

The companies plan to present study results at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in June.

According to the American Cancer Society, 81,550 Americans will be diagnosed with head and neck cancer in 2007, including cancers of the tongue, the mouth, the salivary glands and inside the throat, the voice box, eye and orbit, thyroid and the lymph nodes in the upper neck. It is estimated more than 12,900 Americans will die from this disease this year.

Head and neck cancer most often affects people over the age of 50, and men are twice as likely to be diagnosed as women.

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