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Amgen ends trial for stomach-cancer drug due to increase in deaths

Already under pressure to split up, Amgen ends clinical trial for experimental cancer therapy

Biotech giant Amgen Inc. said it stopped clinical trials of an experimental stomach-cancer treatment due to an increase in patient deaths.

The Thousand Oaks-based company said Monday that an independent committee found a higher number of deaths among patients using a combination of rilotumumab, the experimental drug, and chemotherapy compared with people receiving chemotherapy only.

"While we are disappointed with these results, we will work with lead investigators to further analyze the data in order to help inform future research and therapies in this area," said Sean Harper, Amgen's executive vice president of research and development.

Harper said there's "a high unmet need for new treatments to address advanced gastric cancer."

Shares of Amgen were up $1.50, or nearly 1%, to $164.31 in midday trading Monday following the company's announcement.

Amgen has come under pressure recently from hedge-fund manager Daniel Loeb.

Loeb has called for Amgen to split into two separate businesses. One company could focus on established drugs and a separate company could pursue drugs in development, he has suggested.

Amgen executives have insisted a spinoff doesn't make sense financially. But bowing partly to those investor demands, Amgen has announced substantial job cuts as well as increased stock repurchases and dividends.

Twitter: @chadterhune

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