Cougar trial sees big response to prostate cancer drug

Cougar Biotechnology revealed some new clinical trial data this morning that helps explain why Johnson & Johnson is willing to pay nearly a billion dollars for the company.

Researchers say that Cougar's lead drug candidate--abiraterone acetate--produced positive data in a small clinical study on prostate tumors. Abiraterone is designed to stop the body from producing a hormone tumor cells thrive on. Imaging scans of the 54 patients in the study demonstrated that nine of 24 subjects demonstrated a decrease in tumor size. Significantly, 28 of 42 patients who completed the study demonstrated a reduction in PSA of at least 50 percent. Eight patients saw their PSA levels drop by 90 percent or more.

Abiraterone is now in late-stage studies. BTG licensed abiraterone from the Institute of Cancer Research in London and funded early studies before licensing the therapy to Cougar. Researchers at the institute believe the drug could make it to market in 2011.

"This drug has changed the way the science community looks at prostate cancer," lead investigator Johann de Bono said in a statement. "The patients involved in this trial remained pain-free for an average of about eight months, a brilliant result for those with aggressive prostate cancer and their families. For about a third of men--those who carried the ERG gene--the benefit lasted for more than 18 months."

- read the report from Reuters
- read the story from the Star-Ledger