HGS investors shrug off a mid-stage cancer failure

Human Genome Sciences announced this morning that its cancer antibody flunked a mid-stage clinical trial, failing to produce better data on either disease response or progression-free survival for lung cancer when compared to a control group.

Mapatumumab is designed to trigger apoptosis, or cancer cell death, a popular strategy in the cancer field. The antibody binds to a protein known as TRAIL receptor 1 and HGS is also studying it for multiple myeloma and hepatocellular cancer. The biotech says it will have progression-free survival data available from the multiple myeloma study in mid-2010 and expects to initiate the randomization stage of the hepatocellular cancer study before the end of 2010. Today's release didn't include any specific data readouts, though. Those will be released at a scientific meeting sometime later in the year.

HGS' cancer program is its most advanced mid-stage product. But investors who have fueled a skyrocketing share price have been concentrating primarily on the far more promising prospect for Benlysta, which amazed the company's closest observers with unexpectedly positive late-stage lupus results last year. HGS also faces an October 4 PDUFA date for its hep C drug Zalbin. HGS shares slid only about one percent after the cancer news was announced.

- here's HGS's release