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Aeterna Zentaris to stop late-stage cancer drug trial, shares fall

(Reuters) - Canadian drugmaker Aeterna Zentaris Inc said it would discontinue a late-stage trial of a cancer drug after an independent data safety monitoring committee said the drug was unlikely to help increase patient survival.

Shares of the company fell as much as 29 percent to C$1.89 on Monday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

The committee recommended that patient enrollment be stopped and the study discontinued for perifosine, the company said in a statement.

The drug is being studied to treat multiple myeloma, a cancer that starts in plasma cells in bone marrow and disrupts the production of normal blood cells.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration granted perifosine an orphan-drug designation in September 2009 as well as a fast-track designation in December 2009.

The late-stage trial compared the efficacy and safety of perifosine to a placebo when combined with bortezomib and dexamethasone in patients with multiple myeloma.

The committee also said it was highly unlikely that the study would achieve a significant difference in its primary endpoint and progression free survival, or increasing survival of patients without the cancer worsening.

(Reporting by Shounak Dasgupta in Bangalore; Editing by Roshni Menon)

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