June 1, 2008 / 7:37 PM / 12 years ago

Poniard says promising data emphasize drug partner need

CHICAGO, June 1 (Reuters) - Drug development company Poniard Pharmaceuticals Inc PARD.O reported promising preliminary trial results for a new type of chemotherapy on Sunday, findings it hopes will be strong enough to land a development partner to help finance future studies.

“The ideal partner for us would be a single business with a global reach,” Jerry McMahon, the company’s chief executive, told Reuters.

Poniard unveiled mid-stage data at a meeting here of the American Society of Clinical Oncology showing that the drug — a new type of platinum-based chemotherapy — given in combination with standard chemo drugs 5-fluorouracil and leucovorin, appears to be as effective as the two drugs combined with oxaliplatin for patients with metastatic colorectal cancer.

That is important because oxaliplatin causes some type of nerve pain in 80 percent to 90 percent of patients, leading them to either reduce or abandon treatment, McMahon said.

Early results from the ongoing 100-patient Phase II trial showed that out of 11 evaluated patients on the experimental regimen, 10 achieved disease control. Of 13 evaluated patients on the standard regimen, 10 achieved disease control, including one partial response.

“The data looks very good. It is consistent with our thesis,” the CEO said, noting that Poniard has not yet seen a single case of severe neuropathy in colon cancer patients treated with picoplatin.

The company is currently conducting a pivotal trial of the drug in small-cell lung cancer and expects to have picoplatin on the market for that indication in 2010. Poniard also presented at ASCO this weekend data from trials of the drug in prostate and ovarian cancer patients.

“The data at this meeting says there are other trials we need to do ... It makes a lot of sense now that we seek a partner for registrational trials,” McMahon said.

He said Poniard would consider a partnership deal prior to receipt of the pivotal lung cancer data if the terms respect the fact that the company will soon have data across a number of oncology indications.

Oxaliplatin, sold by Sanofi Aventis (SASY.PA) under the brand name Eloxatin for colorectal cancer, has annual sales of more than $2 billion.

“If the ongoing Phase I/II data show comparable efficacy as oxaliplatin-based regimen, we believe that picoplatin may have a big opportunity in colorectal cancer,” Leerink Swann analyst Howard Liang said in a recent research note. (Editing by Maureen Bavdek)

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