Is­raeli biotech flunks PhII liv­er can­cer study, but it in­sists drug Can-Fite dis­ease in sub­set of pa­tients

Is­raeli biotech Can-Fite Bio­Phar­ma is hop­ing to trudge ahead with a late-stage study of its ex­per­i­men­tal can­cer drug, de­spite it fail­ing a mid-stage study in pa­tients with ad­vanced liv­er can­cer.

The drug, namodeno­son, was be­ing test­ed in a 78-pa­tient Phase II study in pa­tients with ad­vanced liv­er can­cer in pa­tients with un­der­ly­ing cir­rho­sis, whose dis­ease had pro­gressed de­spite first­line treat­ment with Bay­er’s Nex­avar.

Can-Fite’s drug missed the main goal of over­all sur­vival; in fact namodeno­son-treat­ed pa­tients ac­tu­al­ly per­formed worse: me­di­an OS was 4.1 months for namodeno­son ver­sus 4.3 months for place­bo.

Shares of the com­pa­ny $CANF tum­bled more than 27% in pre-mar­ket trad­ing to 94 cents on Tues­day.

Pa­tients with ad­vanced liv­er can­cer are di­vid­ed in­to sub­class­es based on cir­rho­sis sever­i­ty, us­ing a wide­ly used tool as mea­sured by the Child-Pugh score, which was orig­i­nal­ly de­vel­oped in 1973 to es­ti­mate the risk of op­er­a­tive mor­tal­i­ty in pa­tients with bleed­ing esophageal varices.

In the tri­al, pa­tients giv­en the Child Pugh B (CPB) score were en­rolled, and with­in that cat­e­go­ry pa­tients were fur­ther di­vid­ed in­to three sub­cat­e­gories de­not­ing in­creas­ing sever­i­ty — CPB7, CPB8, and CPB9.

Sec­ondary study end­points in­clud­ed safe­ty, pro­gres­sion free sur­vival (PFS) and the per­cent­age of pa­tients whose tu­mors par­tial­ly shrank af­ter treat­ment, or par­tial re­sponse (PR).

CPB7 pa­tients — the largest sub­cat­e­go­ry in the tri­al (n=56) — did live longer when giv­en namodeno­son. Namodeno­son-treat­ed pa­tients (n=34) ex­pe­ri­enced me­di­an OS of 6.8 months com­pared to place­bo (n=22) with 4.3 months. Sim­i­lar­ly, for these pa­tients, PFS was 3.5 months in the namodeno­son-treat­ed group ver­sus 1.9 months in the place­bo group.

For the en­tire pa­tient pop­u­la­tion, 9% of those treat­ed by namodeno­son achieved PR ver­sus none in the place­bo group.

The drug has al­ready been grant­ed fast-track sta­tus by the FDA, and Can-Fite ap­peared en­cour­aged by the da­ta set.

Josep Llovet

“These da­ta strong­ly sup­port the pro­gres­sion in­to Phase III,” Can-Fite said in a state­ment, adding that the com­pa­ny plans to dis­cuss the re­sults with reg­u­la­to­ry agen­cies to de­ter­mine its next steps.

“The glob­al in­ci­dence of liv­er can­cer con­tin­ues to in­crease and has more than tripled in the Unit­ed States over the last three decades, and cur­rent­ly there are no rec­om­mend­ed sys­temic treat­ment op­tions for pa­tients with ad­vanced HCC and se­vere liv­er dys­func­tion (Child Pugh B),” said Josep Llovet, founder of the Liv­er Can­cer pro­gram at Mount Sinai, in a state­ment. “(T)he cur­rent da­ta from this Phase II tri­al sug­gest a sig­nal of ef­fi­ca­cy that sup­ports con­tin­u­ing the de­vel­op­ment of Namodeno­son with a Phase III study in this pop­u­la­tion. I will be hap­py to help with the de­sign of the Phase III and serve as the prin­ci­pal in­ves­ti­ga­tor of the tri­al.”

Can-Fite’s tech plat­form is based on re­search that points to tar­get­ing the Gi pro­tein cou­pled A3 adeno­sine re­cep­tor (A3AR), which is un­der­stood to be over­ex­pressed in in­flam­ma­to­ry and can­cer cells. The com­pa­ny has a tri­fec­ta of drugs in de­vel­op­ment, in­clud­ing namodeno­son, which is al­so be­ing test­ed for use in NASH.

Nick Leschly via Getty

UP­DAT­ED: Blue­bird shares sink as an­a­lysts puz­zle out $1.8M stick­er shock and an un­ex­pect­ed de­lay

Blue­bird bio $BLUE has un­veiled its price for the new­ly ap­proved gene ther­a­py Zyn­te­glo (Lenti­Glo­bin), which came as a big sur­prise. And it wasn’t the on­ly un­ex­pect­ed twist in to­day’s sto­ry.

With some an­a­lysts bet­ting on a $900,000 price for the β-tha­lassemia treat­ment in Eu­rope, where reg­u­la­tors pro­vid­ed a con­di­tion­al ear­ly OK, blue­bird CEO Nick Leschly said Fri­day morn­ing that the pa­tients who are suc­cess­ful­ly treat­ed with their drug over 5 years will be charged twice that — $1.8 mil­lion — on the con­ti­nent. That makes this drug the sec­ond most ex­pen­sive ther­a­py on the plan­et, just be­hind No­var­tis’ new­ly ap­proved Zol­gens­ma at $2.1 mil­lion, with an­a­lysts still wait­ing to see what kind of pre­mi­um can be had in the US.

Ted Love. HAVERFORD COLLEGE

Glob­al Blood Ther­a­peu­tics poised to sub­mit ap­pli­ca­tion for ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval, with new piv­otal da­ta on its sick­le cell dis­ease drug

Global Blood Therapeutics is set to submit an application for accelerated approval in the second-half of this year, after unveiling fresh data from a late-stage trial that showed just over half the patients given the highest dose of its experimental sickle cell disease drug experienced a statistically significant improvement in oxygen-wielding hemoglobin, meeting the study's main goal.

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News­mak­ers at #EHA19: Re­gen­eron, Ar­Qule track progress on re­sponse rates

Re­gen­eron’s close­ly-watched bis­pe­cif­ic con­tin­ues to ring up high re­sponse rates

Re­gen­eron’s high-pro­file bis­pe­cif­ic REGN1979 is back in the spot­light at the Eu­ro­pean Hema­tol­ogy As­so­ci­a­tion sci­en­tif­ic con­fab. And while the stel­lar num­bers we saw at ASH have erod­ed some­what as more blood can­cer pa­tients are eval­u­at­ed, the re­sponse rates for this CD3/CD20 drug re­main high.

A to­tal of 13 out of 14 fol­lic­u­lar lym­phomas re­spond­ed to the drug, a 93% ORR, down from 100% at the last read­out. In 10 out of 14, there was a com­plete re­sponse. In dif­fuse large B-cell lym­phoma the re­sponse rate was 57% among pa­tients treat­ed at the 80 mg to 160 mg dose range. They were all com­plete re­spons­es. And 2 of these Cars were for pa­tients who had failed CAR-T ther­a­py.

Search­ing for the next block­buster to fol­low Darza­lex, J&J finds a $150M an­ti-CD38 drug from part­ner Gen­mab

Now that J&J and Genmab have thrust Darzalex onto the regulatory orbit for first-line use in multiple myeloma, the partners are lining up a deal for a next-gen follow-on to the leading CD38 drug.


Janssen — J&J’s biotech unit — has its eyes on HexaBody-CD38, a preclinical compound generated on Genmab’s tech platform designed to make drugs more potent via hexamerization.


Genmab is footing the bill on studies in multiple myeloma and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma; once it completes clinical proof of concept, Janssen has the option to license the drug for a $150 million exercise fee. There’s also $125 million worth of milestones in play.

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Gene ther­a­pies seize the top of the list of the most ex­pen­sive drugs on the plan­et — and that trend has just be­gun

Anyone looking for a few simple reasons why the gene therapy field has caught fire with the pharma giants need only look at the new list of the 10 most expensive therapies from GoodRx.

Two recently approved gene therapies sit atop this list, with Novartis’ Zolgensma crowned the king of the priciest drugs at $2.1 million. Right below is Luxturna, the $850,000 pioneer from Spark, which Roche is pushing hard to acquire as it adds a gene therapy group to the global mix.

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Savara shares are crushed as PhI­II tri­al flunks pri­ma­ry, key sec­on­daries — but they can’t stop be­liev­ing

In­vestors are in no mood to hear biotechs tout the suc­cess of a “key” sec­ondary end­point when the piv­otal Phase III flunks the pri­ma­ry goal. Just ask Savara. 

The Texas biotech $SVRA went look­ing for a sil­ver lin­ing as com­pa­ny ex­ecs blunt­ly con­ced­ed that Mol­gradex, an in­haled for­mu­la­tion of re­com­bi­nant hu­man gran­u­lo­cyte-macrophage colony-stim­u­lat­ing fac­tor (GM-CSF), failed to spur sig­nif­i­cant­ly im­proved treat­ment out­comes for pa­tients with a rare res­pi­ra­to­ry dis­ease called au­toim­mune pul­monary alve­o­lar pro­teinosis, or aPAP.

As an­oth­er an­tibi­otics biotech sinks in­to a cri­sis, warn­ings of a sec­tor ‘col­lapse’

Another antibiotics company is scrambling to survive today, forcing the company’s founding CEO to exit in a reorganization that eliminates its research capabilities as the survivors look to improve on minuscule sales of their newly approved treatment. And the news — on top of an alarming series of failures — spurred at least one figure in the field to warn of a looming collapse of the antimicrobial resistance research field.

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'We kept at it': Jef­frey Blue­stone plots late-stage come­back af­ter teplizum­ab shown to de­lay type 1 di­a­betes

Late-stage da­ta pre­sent­ed at the Amer­i­can Di­a­betes As­so­ci­a­tion an­nu­al meet­ing in 2010 pushed Eli Lil­ly to put a crimp on teplizum­ab as the phar­ma gi­ant found it un­able to re­set the clock on new­ly di­ag­nosed type 1 di­a­betes. At the same con­fer­ence but in dif­fer­ent hands nine years lat­er, the drug is mak­ing a crit­i­cal come­back by scor­ing suc­cess in an­oth­er niche: de­lay­ing the on­set of the dis­ease.

In a Phase II tri­al with 76 high-risk in­di­vid­u­als — rel­a­tives of pa­tients with type 1 di­a­betes who have di­a­betes-re­lat­ed au­toan­ti­bod­ies in their bod­ies — teplizum­ab al­most dou­bled the me­di­an time of di­ag­no­sis com­pared to place­bo (48.4 months ver­sus 24.4 months). The haz­ard ra­tio for di­ag­no­sis was 0.41 (p=0.006).

Bain’s biotech team has cre­at­ed a $1B-plus fund — with an eye to more Big Phar­ma spin­outs

One of the biggest investors to burst onto the biotech scene in recent years has re-upped with more than a billion dollars flowing into its second fund. And this next wave of bets will likely include more of the Big Pharma spinouts that highlighted their first 3 years in action.

Adam Koppel and Jeff Schwartz got the new life sciences fund at Bain Capital into gear in the spring of 2016, as they were putting together a $720 million fund with $600 million flowing in from external investors and the rest drawn from the Bain side of the equation. This time the external investors chipped in $900 million, with Bain coming in for roughly $180 million more.

They’re not done with Fund I, with plans to add a couple more deals to the 15 they’ve already posted. And once again, they’re estimating another 15 to 20 investments over a 3- to 5-year time horizon for Fund II.

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