Halozyme to Restructure After Pancreatic Cancer Drug Fails in Phase 3

Xconomy San Diego — 

An experimental Halozyme Therapeutics treatment for pancreatic cancer has failed a pivotal study, and the company is stopping further development of the drug and closing its oncology operations as part of a corporate restructuring.

Halozyme (NASDAQ: HALO) announced Monday that its drug, PEGPH20, did not meet a Phase 3 study’s main goal of improving how long patients lived. The San Diego-based company had been testing its drug in combination with gemcitabine and nab-paclitaxel, a pair of chemotherapies regarded as standard treatment for pancreatic cancer. The median overall survival in the group receiving the drug combination was 11.2 months compared to 11.5 months in the group that received only the chemotherapies. Halozyme added that the higher patient response rate in the PEGPH20 treatment group did not translate to improvement in how long the response lasted or how long patients lived without their cancer worsening.

Halozyme has developed technology that engineers enzymes in a way that enables a drug that’s typically administered intravenously to instead be given by injection. The company has parlayed that technology into partnerships with larger companies, such as Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY), Roche, and Pfizer (NYSE: PFE). The company calls its drug delivery technology Enhanze.

Halozyme was also trying to develop its own drugs, and PEGPH20 was its lead program. The company had said that one of the advantages of PEGPH20 was that it lasts longer in the bloodstream, which allowed the drug to be given systemically to maintain a therapeutic effect.

With PEGPH20 development now halted, Halozyme says it will close its oncology operations and lay off approximately 160 people—roughly 55 percent of its workforce. More than 80 percent of those job cuts will happen by January 2020. The company says the corporate shakeup will save between $130 million and $140 million next year. Going forward, Halozyme says it will focus on supporting and developing Enhanze, which is used in three commercialized products and 11 drugs that are in clinical testing.

Pancreatic cancer cells image by the National Cancer Institute