NewLink shares tumble as pancreatic cancer therapy fails

(Reuters) - Shares of NewLink Genetics Corp plunged 37 percent in extended trading on Monday after the drug maker said its experimental pancreatic cancer immunotherapy did not help patients live longer in a late-stage trial.

The company was testing its drug, algenpantucel-L, in combination with standard-of-care therapy, against standard treatment alone, in 722 patients with surgically removed cancer.

There was no statistically significant difference between the two groups in terms of overall survival, NewLink said.

The median survival rate was 27.3 months for patients who got the drug, compared with 30.4 months for those on standard care, the company said.

Investors will now likely assign a zero value to the company’s so-called HyperAcute platform, which includes algenpantucel-L and other experimental drugs for a plethora of cancers, Cantor Fitzgerald’s Mara Goldstein told Reuters.

Analysts had become cautious about the drug’s prospects last May after NewLink said it would let the trial, IMPRESS, continue, within months of saying it would file for approval if interim data showed an improvement in overall survival rates.

When the trial was not stopped at the interim stage, it fueled fears that the trial would fail.

The company will focus on its other pipeline opportunities, Chief Executive Charles Link said in a statement.

While pancreatic cancer survival rates have been improving, the disease is still considered largely incurable.

About 53,070 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2016, of which some 41,780 will succumb to the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.

The company’s shares were down about 33 percent at $11.10 in after-market trading. They had closed up 6.1 percent at $16.50 in regular trading.

Up to Monday’s close, the stock had more than halved in value this year.

Reporting by Natalie Grover in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila