ASCO Preview: Seattle Genetics, ZymoGenetics, Trubion & Other Seattle Biotechs Offer Peeks at Cancer Drug Results

5/15/09Follow @xconomy

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had their disease spread or get worse. The drug was generally well-tolerated with the more intense weekly dosing, with some mild to moderate reports of rash, nausea, and nerve damage in the fingers and toes, the company said. More details will be presented at the conference on June 1.

—Seattle-based ZymoGenetics (NASDAQ: ZGEN) will present detailed results at ASCO on a mid-stage clinical trial of its experimental drug, IL-21, in combination with Bayer and Onyx Pharmaceuticals’ sorafenib (Nexavar). ZymoGenetics is hopeful that its drug, which is supposed to stimulate T cells and Natural Killer cells of the immune system to fight tumors, will add to the effect of sorafenib, which is made to cut off blood supply to tumors, and block pathways that allow those cells to proliferate.

The study, according to the abstract, enrolled 33 patients in the U.S. and Canada who failed to respond to one or two prior rounds of therapy for kidney cancer that has spread through the body. Six of the 23 evaluable patients (26 percent) had at least partial tumor shrinkage. Six patients dropped out of the study because of drug toxicity, and the regimen is clearly a rough one. One-third of patients reported moderate to severe side effects, including low phosphate levels, rash, and deficiencies of white blood cells and platelets in the blood. Researchers termed the safety profile “acceptable.”

“We see encouraging anti-tumor activity with IL-21 combined with Nexavar,” said Nicole Onetto, ZymoGenetics’ chief medical officer, in a statement. “We believe the combination of IL-21 and Nexavar could be more effective than Nexavar alone.” ZymoGenetics is looking to out-license this drug, because it is getting out of cancer research as part of the sweeping cost cuts it announced a couple weeks ago.

—Seattle-based Trubion Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: TRBN) reported that it plans to give a presentation on a clinical trial of its experimental cancer drug, TRU-016, at ASCO.

The drug is made through Trubion’s technology for targeting cells like an antibody, but using a smaller, lighter molecule that is supposed to be better at penetrating bulky tissues than larger antibody drugs. This trial looked at 10 patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia who took an escalating series of doses of TRU-016. Researchers reported patients had decreasing counts of cancer cells in the blood after taking the drug, and it reduced their lymph nodes and spleen size. There were no serious adverse events, the company said.

“The data to be presented at ASCO expands our pre-clinical experience and reinforces our belief that TRU-016 has the potential to improve treatment options for patients with B-cell malignancies like chronic lymphocytic leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” said Peter Thompson, Trubion’s CEO, in a statement.

OncoGenex Pharmaceuticals, a Bothell, WA-based developer of cancer drugs, will finally relieve the suspense about its prostate cancer drug at the ASCO meeting. The company (NASDAQ: OGXI) made waves back in December when it reported results from a clinical trial of 82 men. The trial suggested the OncoGenex drug, OGX-011, had an unprecedented ability to help men live longer with the disease, a median time of 27.5 months on the company’s experimental drug in combination with a chemo treatment and immune suppressor, compared with 16.9 months for those on the latter two treatments alone.

But skeptics now have some ammunition to shoot holes in this result. The company never disclosed … Next Page »

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