Keryx colon cancer drug boosts survival -study

CHICAGO Thu May 20, 2010 7:36pm EDT

CHICAGO May 20 (Reuters) - An experimental colorectal cancer drug being developed by Keryx Biopharmaceuticals Inc (KERX.O) showed it improved overall survival and slowed cancer progression in patients with advanced colorectal cancer, according to a summary of final data from a mid-stage study.

Researchers said the drug KRX-0401, also known as perifosine, was well tolerated and showed "promising activity" over chemotherapy as a second or third-choice drug for patients with colorectal cancer that has spread.

The study was one of thousands of abstracts, or brief summaries, of studies released on Thursday ahead of presentation at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) next month in Chicago.

The study looked at the safety and effectiveness of perifosine in combination with chemotherapy drug capecitabine in 38 patients with advanced colorectal cancer.

All of the patients had already failed to improve on one or two other treatments.

Of the 35 patients evaluated, 20 percent who got the perifosine combination responded to treatment, compared to 7 percent who got chemotherapy plus a dummy pill.

Patients in the treatment group lived 18 months, compared with 11 months among those who got chemotherapy plus a placebo.

The drug, being developed jointly with Canadian drugmaker Aeterna Zentaris (AEZ.TO), blocks the activation of Akt, a new pathway thought to be linked with cell death and survival.

High levels of activated Akt are seen frequently in many types of cancer, and are often a sign of poor prognosis.

Last month, U.S. regulators granted the drug fast-track approval, a designation that speeds the regulatory approval process. A late-stage study of the drug is expected to begin this quarter. (Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by David Gregorio)

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