Ariad Pharmaceuticals Inc said an independent committee of experts recommended that a late-stage trial of the company's experimental cancer treatment may continue.

The independent data monitoring committee (DMC) based its recommendation on the first interim efficacy analysis of the drug, ridaforolimus, which has been granted an orphan drug status by U.S. and European health regulators.

The DMC indicated that the safety data from the first interim analysis were consistent with the known safety profile of the drug and no modifications to the study protocol were recommended.

The late-stage trial, which has enrolled over 500 patients till date, was testing the oral drug in patients with metastatic sarcoma, a group of aggressive cancers of connective tissue in the body.

The main goal of the trial, named SUCCEED, is to achieve progression-free survival, the company said in a statement. Ariad has a development and marketing collaboration with Merck & Co Inc on the uses of the drug in cancer.

Full patient enrollment is expected to take place by the end of 2009 and the second interim analysis is expected by the end of the first quarter of 2010.

Shares of Ariad were up 11 percent to $2.90 in premarket trade. They closed at $2.62 Friday on Nasdaq. (Reporting by Esha Dey in Bangalore; Editing by Aradhana Aravindan)