On Tuesday, Merck announced that it had halted a Phase III clinical trial evaluating an experimental treatment for head and neck cancer, leading to a sharp fall in its share price.

The German company explained that its decision was based on the opinion of the study's independent monitoring committee, which considered that the trial was unlikely to achieve its primary objective of improving patient survival.

The trial involved the combination of the small molecule with chemo-radiotherapy in the treatment of non-operated, locally advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck.

The failure of xevinapant is clearly a disappointment in view of the results achieved in Phase II," commented analysts at UBS this morning.

"For Stifel's teams, this failure will further intensify the debate surrounding how to relaunch the Group's research and development (R&D) program, which is penalizing the evolution of its share price.

In a press release, Merck explains that it intends to concentrate on Erbitux, its current treatment for head and neck carcinoma, which is currently undergoing 200 clinical trials, including at least 15 phase III trials.

The share price was down 10% on Tuesday morning on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, posting the biggest drop on the DAX index, which lost 1.4%.

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