June 16, 2010 / 12:53 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 4-Curis says cancer drug fails in mid-stage trial

* Says partner Roche informed drug failed in mid-stage

* Roche indicated to start mid-stage trial for skin cancer

* Shares sink as much as 48 pct (Adds details, updates stock movement)

By Krishnakali Sengupta

BANGALORE, June 16 (Reuters) - Drug developer Curis Inc (CRIS.O) said its partner Roche Holding AG ROG.VX informed that their experimental cancer drug did not meet the main goal of a mid-stage trial, sending Curis shares down 48 percent.

The drug failed to extend the time of disease progression or death in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer, the company said.

The study was designed to test the drug in combination with standard-of-care and chemotherapy against the current standard of care treatment.

“Obviously it was a disappointment for Curis, given that colorectal indication was one of the earlier read-outs on whether Hedgehog inhibitor would work,” Rodman & Renshaw analyst Reni Benjamin said.

However, two analysts including Benjamin remained optimistic about the drug’s technology and said any weakness in the stock should be viewed as a buying opportunity.

Curis’ drug, GDC-0449, is part of a new class of medicines that block the Hedgehog signaling pathway, which involves several proteins that play a role in abnormal cell growth.

“We continue to believe that GDC-0449 may offer potential benefit in other cancer indications,” Curis Chief Executive Dan Passeri said in a statement.

Curis said Roche has indicated to initiate a mid-stage trial for the drug in operable basal cell carcinoma (BCC) or skin cancer patients, in the second half.

The drug is already undergoing a mid-stage trial for advanced BCC and results are expected in 2011, it said.

Earlier in the month, Roche said the drug showed promising results in an early stage trial in children with medulloblastoma, the most common type of malignant brain tumor in children. [ID:nN05167654]

The drug is also being tested in another mid-stage trial for advanced ovarian cancer, results from which are expected in the second half, the company said.

Analyst Benjamin said the data from the trial will not impact the drug’s promise in other indications.

Benjamin has an “market outperform” rating and a price target of $6 on the stock.

Roth Capital Partners analyst Joseph Pantginis kept his “buy” rating on the stock but cut his price target to $3.50 from $4.50.

Pantginis said he expects a 20 percent chance for the drug’s success in treating ovarian cancer. His previous estimate was 25 percent.

Curis shares were down 43 percent at $1.86 in afternoon trade Wednesday on Nasdaq. They touched a low of $1.70 earlier in the session. (Reporting by Krishnakali Sengupta; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)

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