Antisoma shares crater as lead cancer drug flunks PhIII

Shares of the U.K.'s Antisoma suffered a meltdown Monday morning as investors reacted to the news that its lead program suffered a catastrophic Phase III failure. The developer decided to halt the late-stage study after an interim analysis concluded that ASA404--which is partnered with Novartis--had little chance of demonstrating a survival benefit for patients with untreated non-small cell lung cancer.

CEO Glyn Edwards frankly told Reuters that Novartis would probably do a quick assessment of where the program stands. And he didn't sugarcoat the likely conclusion: "We have to say it's quite unlikely that we will get any future cash flows from this program, although we weren't expecting anything in the short term."

Antisoma's primary attention now will shift to its two leukemia programs. AS1413 is in Phase III and AS1411 is in a mid-stage study. Edwards says the company has plenty of cash to see its way through both of those trials over the course of the next year, but noted he would take a much more "pragmatic" approach to striking new licensing deals for 1413 and other unpartnered assets.

Investors, however, didn't look ready to wait it out this morning. Antisoma's shares dropped as much as 72 percent at one point. Antisoma says that it had about $67.41 million on hand at the end of February.

- here's the press release
- and here's the Reuters story