Curis Stock Tanks After Cancer Drug Fails in Roche, Genentech’s Hands

6/16/10Follow @xconomy

Curis, the Cambridge, MA-based biotech company, is having a very bad day. The company’s stock plunged more than 40 percent today after its experimental cancer drug failed to reach its goal in a clinical trial conducted by its partner, Roche, and its U.S.-based Genentech unit.

Curis (NASDAQ: CRIS) said that its experimental therapy, GDC-0449, failed to slow the spread of tumors or help people live longer, when it was added to a combo regimen with chemotherapy and Roche’s bevacizumab (Avastin). The study tested 199 patients who were getting their first round of treatment for colorectal cancer that has spread through the body.

This is a big setback for Curis, which was testing the cutting-edge idea of whether its small-molecule drug could help patients by blocking signals from a target called hedgehog. Many companies are hotly pursuing this target for cancer drugs, which is involved in embryonic development. This biological pathway is thought to be central to how cells differentiate and proliferate, and it is thought that in cancer patients, it can essentially get flipped into an overdrive position that helps the tumor overcome existing therapies. Curis sought to put a brave face on today’s news by saying that it’s possible certain tumor types may be more dependent on hedgehog signaling, so it’s possible the strategy may work better in another patient population. Roche and Genentech are running another study using the Curis treatment among patients with advanced basal cell carcinoma.

“Despite these disappointing results in metastatic colorectal cancer, we remain encouraged that Genentech and Roche’s clinical development of GDC-0449 in other cancers continues to make good progress,” said Dan Passeri, Curis’ CEO, in a statement.

Shares of Curis dropped 41 percent, to $1.91 a share just before Noon Eastern time today. That left Curis with a market valuation of just under $150 million.

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