January 7, 2015 / 11:30 PM / in 3 years

Halozyme CEO sees blockbuster potential in its cancer drug

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Halozyme Therapeutics Inc believes it has a multibillion-dollar cancer drug on its hands.

The drug, PEGPH20, being tested against pancreatic cancer, has the potential to help treat several other types of solid tumor cancers, its chief executive said in an interview.

Halozyme discussed interim data from a Phase II study of PEGPH20 with analysts and investors in New York on Wednesday, demonstrating its likelihood of delaying a worsening of the deadly cancer. Final results of the pancreatic study are expected late this year or early 2016.

PEGPH20 can “enhance the effectiveness of a wide range of anti-cancer therapies in a wide range of tumors,” Halozyme CEO Helen Torley said.

PEGPH20 is the only drug that targets the enzyme hyaluronan (HA) which builds in tumors, creating pressure that blocks blood flow and restricts access of cancer drugs to the tumor. PEGPH20 restores that access.

“All that matters is that the tumor has to have a high concentration of hyaluronan,” said Torley, who previously worked at Onyx Pharmaceuticals and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.

Halozyme expects to develop the drug with a companion diagnostic to determine which patients are likely to benefit from adding PEGPH20 to their treatment.

“It’s a blockbuster in waiting,” said Torley, using the term for medicines with more than $1 billion in annual sales.

“There’s no doubt, when we think about the percentage of high HA patients in these tumors, and how one might be able to support a price and value, you get to a blockbuster pretty readily.”

Halozyme plans discussions with U.S. regulators in the first half of 2015 on the design of a larger pancreatic cancer trial that would support approval of the drug.

High HA tumors are associated with poor patient outcomes, Torley said. “We’re dealing with a big unmet need population that are not responding to the current standard of care.”

Halozyme is also planning PEGPH20 studies in advanced non-small cell lung cancer in combination with the chemotherapy docetaxel, and with one of the new drugs from the highly promising PD-1 inhibitor class that helps the immune system fight cancer.

Halozyme dealt with an increased blood clot risk that halted the Phase II study for a time last year, and slashed nearly 50 percent from the company’s share price, by adding a blood thinner.

Investors were buoyed by Wednesday’s presentation. Halozyme shares closed up 24.4 percent at $12.52.

Reporting by Bill Berkrot; Editing by Richard Chang

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