Why This Biotech Still Gets Hit Despite Promising Cancer Data

Why This Biotech Still Gets Hit Despite Promising Cancer Data

Five Prime Therapeutics ( FPRX ) continued taking hits Monday after presenting data from a Phase 1 trial of its drug combined with Bristol-Myers Squibb ‘s ( BMY ) Opdivo in pancreatic cancer patients.

[ibd-display-video id=2633855 width=50 float=left autostart=true]But at least one analyst says the data have been taken out of context. The combination of Five Prime’s cabiralizumab with Bristol’s Opdivo resulted in a 13% overall response rate and led to durable responses in patients out to one year.

Pancreatic cancer is particularly hard to treat using a drug like Opdivo, which belongs to a class of checkpoint inhibitors that target an interaction involving the PD-1 protein in the immune system to treat cancer, Instinet analyst Christopher Marai said in a note to clients.

Marai classified the combination as “compelling and could become more so on top of chemo.” The presenter “highlighted the rarity of seeing an (immuno-oncology) combo work in pancreatic cancer, noting thousands of patients have received treatment inside and outside trials with checkpoint inhibitors and have not seen benefit,” he said.

The data were presented at the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer annual meeting. Five Prime first released the abstracts on Nov. 7.

Five Prime has taken a beating since releasing the abstracts. In midday trading on the stock market today , Five Prime sank 9.4%, near 26.10. The stock has lost more than a third of its value since releasing the data.

Investors are keying in on adverse event data, analysts say. Five Prime and Bristol tested the regimen across multiple tumor types. Across all patients, grade 3-5 adverse events attributed to cabiralizumab occurred in 43%, leading 13% to discontinue treatment.

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But in pancreatic cancer patients, 7% and 13% on the combination and on cabiralizumab alone, respectively, discontinued treatment due to adverse events. Broad safety data were in line with what one would expect from treatment with Opdivo, Marai said.

Cabiralizumab has been previously tested in rheumatoid arthritis and a joint disease. The drug proved safe and well-tolerated in those trials, he wrote.

Some investors have expressed concern that Five Prime and Bristol only released efficiency data from the regimen in pancreatic cancer, Marai said. But he noted the first segment of the trial to complete enrollment and have mature data was pancreatic cancer.

This is “logical given the high unmet need and poor response to general therapies,” he said. “We believe limited disclosure is more a result of the highly competitive nature of the (immuno-oncology) space and Bristol’s strategic position, than a lack of positive data.”

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