MEI Pharma, Helsinn Group cut losses, ditch phase 3 partnered cancer test for pracinostat

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Helsinn Group and MEI Pharma penned a near $500 million biobucks pact for experimental blood cancer drug pracinostat back in 2016, but now the pair is closing the curtain on one of its key tests.

In a brief update posted by the companies today, they said they would “discontinue the phase 3 study with pracinostat in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) after completing interim analysis.” This analysis found it would likely not be up to scratch.  

“An interim futility analysis of the ongoing phase 3 study of pracinostat in combination with azacitidine in patients with AML who are unfit to receive standard intensive chemotherapy, undertaken by the study Independent Data Monitoring Committee, has demonstrated it was unlikely to meet the primary endpoint of overall survival compared to the control group.”

The pair added it will take a look at the data, but “patients currently enrolled in other pracinostat studies will continue treatment.”

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Pracinostat, which works as an oral histone deacetylase inhibitor, is also being tested in phase 2 for patients with high- or very high-risk myelodysplastic syndromes (MDSs).

In August 2016, Helsinn penned a small upfront deal with nearly $500 million in biobucks wedded to it with MEI Pharma for pracinostat in AML and “other potential indications.” The pact sees privately owned Helsinn as primarily responsible for development and sales costs for pracinostat in AML and MDS.

Still, Mei Pharma’s shares were off nearly $20 in early trading on the news Thursday morning.