03/20/2012 01:09 EDT | Updated 05/20/2012 05:12 EDT

US panel opposes Merck drug for rare type of cancer, saying trials fell short

A panel of U.S. cancer experts voted against an experimental Merck drug for a rare type of cancer, saying the company's trials did not show a meaningful benefit for patients.

The Food and Drug Administration panel voted 13-1 against Merck's ridaforolimus to help patients with sarcoma control their cancer after it is in remission. The vote is not binding, but the agency usually follows its recommendations.

Panelists noted that patients taking the drug did not live significantly longer than those taking placebo. Patients did experience a longer disease-free period before their cancer returned, but only for seven weeks. Panelists said the delay was not medically significant for patients. At the same time, panelists worried about the drug's side effects, with 60 per cent of patients experiencing a serious drug-related issue.