Drug Development

Halozyme slides on an early futility failure for its lead cancer therapy

Helen Torley

Halozyme shares slipped 8% on Thursday after the biotech reported that one of its combo studies using PEGPH20 couldn’t clear an early test for futility.

Investigators were using a combination of PEGPH20 plus Folfirinox against Folfirinox alone on previously untreated metastatic pancreatic cancer, a tough challenge for any drug. Now the San Diego-based biotech has halted enrollment as it analyses the data.

SWOG, an independent network of researchers that design and conduct cancer clinical trials, was handling the study.

PEGPH20 — the biotech’s lead therapy — uses an enzyme to degrade hyaluronan, a chain of natural sugars that accumulate around a range of tumor types. They are working with evidence that the treatment makes it easier for therapies to penetrate a tumor’s defenses. And Halozyme is engaged in a range of combination studies to put the theory to the test.

Near the beginning of this year Halozyme reported positive top line data from a mid-stage study examining a combination of PEGPH20 with Celgene’s Abraxane and gemcitabine in advanced pancreatic cancer with high levels of hyaluronan. PFS was 8.6 months for the triple and 4.5 months for the double.

Shares of Halozyme dropped 10% last fall after the company announced that AbbVie opted to drop one of their partnered programs using their platform tech with a tumor necrosis factor alpha target. Their Phase I study fell short of its targets, forcing the end of the program. But they’ll continue to work together under the terms of their $153 million 2015 pact.

“We see every clinical trial involving PEGPH20 as a possibility to advance the study and understanding of how to treat patients with some of the most difficult cancers,” said Dr. Helen Torley, president and CEO. “We will work with SWOG to better understand these data and the patients who may best benefit from the addition of PEGPH20.”



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