Curis shares plunge after lead drug flunks cancer trial

Cambridge, MA-based Curis (CRIS) has been handed a significant setback on its lead cancer program. The developer announced this morning that GDC-0449 flunked the primary endpoint in a Phase II colorectal cancer trial mounted by its partner Genentech, failing to outperform a combination of Avastin and chemotherapy. The news quickly lopped 46 percent off the value of its shares.

Researchers behind the 199-patient trial were looking to see whether the drug, in combination with Avastin and chemo, could beat the standard therapy in delaying disease progression or death. The company released only top-line results, with the hard data being reserved for an upcoming science confab.

Genentech mapped out an ambitious series of trials for the drug, and Curis execs--no doubt bracing for a painful hit on the stock price this morning--wasted no time in trying to shift attention to two other mid-stage trials for the therapy.

"Despite these disappointing results in metastatic colorectal cancer, we remain encouraged that Genentech and Roche's clinical development of GDC-0449 in other cancers continues to make good progress," said Dan Passeri, Curis' president and CEO. "We continue to believe that GDC-0449 may offer potential benefit in other cancer indications because the Hedgehog pathway is thought to act via different mechanisms of action in other tumor types."

- check out the Curis release