Ariad Pharma Stock Up More than 25 Percent on Positive Phase III Data

1/18/11

Cambridge, MA-based Ariad Pharmaceuticals’ (NASDAQ:ARIA) stock is up more than 25 percent this morning. It’s to be expected; the firm is reporting today that its top cancer drug candidate, which the drug giant Merck (NYSE:MRK) is developing through a licensing deal with Ariad, is making strides in a pivotal trial for patients with soft-tissue and bone tumors.

The company reported that the drug, ridaforolimus, has boosted median progression-free survival in study patients by 21 percent or 3.1 weeks, to 17.7 weeks, compared with those who got a placebo. The study also reached its primary goal by the drug reducing risk of tumor progression by 28 percent compared with the people who took placebo. Common side effects of the drug included mouth sores, fatigue, and diarrhea. Full data from the trial will be reported at a meeting later this year, according to Ariad.

The Phase III “SUCCEED” trial is ongoing. Whitehouse Station, NJ-based Merck plans to file for approval of oral ridaforolimus this year after analyzing all the results of the study, according to Ariad.

Ariad is still in the hunt for its first product approval, and the success of this drug could greatly increase its fortunes. In May, the biotech amended its licensing agreement with Merck, which provided the firm a $50 million payment at the time and agreed to handle all development expenses of the drug in return for a greater share of the revenue pie if the treatment makes it onto the market.

I did a more thorough look at Ariad’s strategy of designing molecules to target the drivers of cancer growth and its pipeline of potential drugs late last year. The firm’s common stock was up about 26.5 percent to $6.64 per share as of 10:16 am Eastern time today.

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