Prostate Cancer Drug from OncoGenex, Isis Prolongs Lives; OncoGenex Shares Soar

Xconomy Seattle — 

Some eye-opening news for prostate cancer patients crossed the wire this morning, sending shares of OncoGenex Pharmaceuticals rocketing up 80 percent. An experimental drug from OncoGenex and Isis Pharmaceuticals, used in combination with standard treatments, helped men with prostate cancer live a median time of 10.6 months longer than if they took the usual chemo alone.

OncoGenex, with headquarters in Vancouver, BC and Bothell, WA, said its drug was tested in a randomized study of 82 patients whose tumors resisted hormone therapy, and whose disease had spread or worsened. The trial was conducted and analyzed by the National Cancer Institute of Canada, and supported with a grant from the Canadian Cancer Society. Patients who took OncoGenex’s OGX-011 in combination with docetaxel (a chemo drug marketed as Taxotere) and prednisone (an immune suppressor) had a 27.5 month median survival time, compared with 16.9 months for those on docetaxel and prednisone alone. Full results of the study with more follow-up will be available next year.

If these results hold up in larger trials it could be a big deal for the prostate cancer community. Docetaxel was approved by the FDA based on producing a survival edge of just 2.4 months over mitoxantrone, the previous standard, OncoGenex said. About 30,000 men die of prostate cancer in the U.S. each year, and they are clamoring for new treatment options, as anyone who follows Seattle-based Dendreon (NASDAQ: DNDN) is well aware of.

The OncoGenex drug, which is based on so-called antisense RNA technology, was jointly discovered by Carlsbad, CA-based Isis (NASDAQ: ISIS) and early development work was done by both companies. OncoGenex (NASDAQ: OGXI) has had full responsibility for development costs of the drug since July. Shares of OncoGenex shot up $1.80, or 80 percent, to $4.05 at 10:11 am Eastern time.

“The progress our partners are making with antisense drugs discovered using Isis’ antisense technology demonstrates the value of our technology to create drugs that are first-in-class and may provide new treatment options in a broad range of diseases, including cancer,” said Stanley Crooke, CEO of Isis, in a statement. “We are encouraged by the latest results from OGX-011 and look forward to OncoGenex announcing the full results of the study next year.”

No details were included in the statements from Isis and OncoGenex about side effects of the drug, which is designed to block the production of clusterin, a protein thought to help tumors resist a number of anti-cancer agents. If the drug goes on to become a marketed product, Isis stands to get royalties of 5.5 percent to 7 percent of sales. Isis also stands to get 30 percent of the upfront fees if OncoGenex sells partnership rights to another company before entering Phase III pivotal trials.

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