AB soars on promising survival data from Phase II tumor study

Shares of Paris-based AB Science shot up yesterday after the drug developer reported strong efficacy results from a midstage study of its experimental drug for gastrointestinal tumors. The treatment, masitinib, not only outperformed Sutent, it also appeared to be better tolerated.

Investigators in the trial divvied up 44 Gleevec-resistant, advanced-stage patients in the study between the experimental drug arm and a Sutent group. "After 18 months, 79% of patients treated with masitinib were still alive," AB reports, "versus 20% for patients treated with Sutent. After 2 years, 53% of patients treated with masitinib were still alive," versus none of the patients in the Sutent arm.

That news triggered a 46% spike in AB's share price.

Longer life in the study was also tied to fewer side effects. Nausea, diarrhea and asthenia were the most common related adverse events. For most biotechs, this kind of proof-of-concept data would inspire a licensing pact. But AB's CEO insists that the French biotech can get through the clinic alone.

"At this time we don't need a partner," CEO Alain Moussy tells Bloomberg. "We've been able to execute a large clinical program by ourselves. It's tough, but we are doing it." He declined to comment on any current or future talks with potential marketing partners.

"Masitinib differs from Sutent by its selectivity profile," says Dr. Olivier Hermine, who heads AB's scientific committee. "Unlike Sutent, which targets a broad spectrum of protein kinases, masitinib is very selective, which brings better tolerability. Furthermore, in addition to killing cells that make up the tumors, masitinib has a complementary mode of action that may also kill cancer stem cells and trigger an immune response, which may further enhance its efficacy. These promising results in second line treatment of GIST, which correlate with the encouraging results previously reported in the first line treatment of GIST, tend to confirm that masitinib has an original mechanism of action that may translate into improved survival."

- read the press release
- here's the report from Bloomberg

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