Merck, AstraZeneca reach deal on cancer treatment

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. - AstraZeneca PLC will take over clinical development of a potential ovarian cancer treatment from Merck & Co. under a new licensing deal the drugmakers announced Wednesday.

As part of the deal, London-based AstraZeneca will pay Merck $50 million upfront and possible future payments tied to development and regulatory milestones as well as sales. AstraZeneca will be responsible for manufacturing and marketing the drug, along with development. Merck is based in Whitehouse Station, N.J.

The experimental drug, labeled MK-1775, is in mid-stage clinical testing as a possible oral treatment for certain forms of ovarian cancer when used with other therapies. It is designed to cause some tumor cells to divide without undergoing normal DNA repair processes. That sequence of events leads to the death of the tumor cells.

Shares of Merck closed at $47.98 in Tuesday trading and have climbed 17 percent so far this year. U.S.-traded shares of AstraZeneca closed at $49.57 and have booked a 5 percent gain in 2013.

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