September 17, 2015 / 6:30 PM / 4 years ago

Advaxis therapy improves survival rates in cervical cancer patients

(Reuters) - Advaxis Inc said its experimental cancer vaccine was found more effective in improving survival rates of cervical cancer patients than standard therapy, validating the technology behind its pipeline of cancer treatments.

About 38.5 percent of the patients in a mid-stage study, whose disease had progressed or returned after prior therapy, survived for a year after being given the Advaxis vaccine, the biotech company said on Thursday.

Advaxis shares, which had risen about 19 percent in the past three days, closed up 0.5 percent at $19.71 on Thursday. However, the stock slumped as much as 28 percent just after the data was reported.

“The initial reaction was mostly driven by expectations for a higher 12-month survival,” FBR & Co analyst Vernon Bernardino said.

“However, that probably was driven by a whisper number which moved the stock up 20 percent in the last five trading sessions.”

Bernardino said the 38.5 percent survival rate Advaxis reported on Thursday was higher than the 27 percent rate its reported from earlier studies.

Advaxis said there were no serious adverse events but about 15 percent of patients experienced hypotension and cytokine release syndrome, and one patient experienced lung infection and sepsis.

Patients with persistent or recurrent metastatic cervical cancer survive for about four to seven months after prior treatments fail, said Dr. Tom Herzog, clinical director at the University of Cincinnati Cancer Institute.

Cervical cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths among women globally. About 12,000 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States.

Positive results from the mid-stage study project Advaxis’ lead cancer therapy, axalimogene filolisbac, as a direct competitor to Roche AG’s blockbuster treatment Avastin.

Advaxis’ vaccine was being tested as a standalone treatment for persistent or recurrent metastatic cervical cancer related to the human papilomavirus. The study was sponsored by the Gynecologic Oncology Group, a not-for-profit group.

The results mirror an earlier study conducted by the company in cervical cancer patients in India.

Zacks Investment analysts have said they expected the therapy to be approved in the United States in late 2017 or early 2018.

Advaxis is testing axalimogene filolisbac as a treatment for head and neck cancer and cervical cancer in combination with other immunotherapies being developed by AstraZeneca PLC and Incyte Corp.

Reporting by Vidya L Nathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Don Sebastian and Savio D'Souza

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