Merck resumes lung cancer vaccine testing

Testing has resumed on an experimental lung cancer vaccine by Germany's Merck KGaA and Oncothyreon, its U.S. partner.

Stimuvax is designed to stimulate a patient's immune system against certain cancel cells following the diagnosis of a tumor. The vaccine is based on the active ingredient BLP25.

The vaccine, Stimuvax, is being tested on lung cancer patients, Reuters reports. Testing had been halted after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration put a hold on a Phase III trial of the drug. That trial, called START, looked to study results in non-small cell lung cancer.

The tests of Stimuvax were halted on March 23 after the a patient taking part in human tests of the vaccine contracted encephalitis. The patient's brain inflammation arose during a mid-stage trial consisting of 30 patients. The vaccine was being tested against multiple myeloma, Reuters reports, a type of cancer that affects the human body's bone marrow and white blood cells.

Merck has also continued its INSPIRE study, targeting Asian lung cancer patients.

Stimuvax is one of many cancer vaccines currently in testing phases. Bristol-Myers Squibb and Transgene, in an alliance with Novartis, are working on a cancer vaccine, and Dendreon Corp.'s Provenge vaccine to treat cancer was given FDA approval in April.