Myriad touts positive data for Dx that predicts prostate cancer recurrence

Myriad Genetics ($MYGN), long known for its predictive breast cancer tests, said recent clinical data backs up assertions that one of its new diagnostic assays can successfully determine which men will face a recurrence or spread of prostate cancer after radical surgery.

The Utah company said its Prolaris test, based on biopsy specimens, accurately predicted which men treated for prostate cancer by radical prostatectomy would face a recurrence or metastasis of the disease. Clinicians used Prolaris to evaluate biopsy specimens from 582 men treated by radical prostatectomy from three groups of patients in the U.S. and Germany. Prolaris is a 46-gene RNA-expression test, and the company said it was more precise than current diagnostic standards such as Gleason Score or PSA.

The Journal of Urology published details on the findings.

So far, as Myriad noted, Prolaris has been tested in over 5,000 patients in 11 clinical studies. But successful studies don't necessarily breed high-volume sales. Last year, Myriad faced struggles in winning reimbursement for Prolaris, which costs approximately $3,400, The New York Times previously reported. But the new research can potentially help the company get the word out and win over cautious payers if they see that the test has potential. After all, with cancer treatment, the sooner the intervention the better a patient's survival chances.

More than that, however, that data and Myriad's promotion of the results show a continued effort to convince investors that it is serious about diversifying.

Myriad's BRACAnalysis test screens for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations to measure a patient's risk for breast or ovarian cancer, and it is a primary revenue driver for the company. A U.S. Supreme Court decision last summer invalidated some patents relating to the test but upheld others, opening the door to competition, and subsequent patent lawsuits on both sides.

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision, however, Myriad has focused hard on reducing risk and diversifying. Earlier in February, it announced it would pay $270 million for Crescendo Bioscience, a California operation focused on commercializing a rheumatoid arthritis molecular diagnostic.  And Myriad has launched a number of other cancer diagnostics in recent months.

Investors have been happy about that (and stellar fiscal 2014 revenue) and continue to drive the stock higher. Myriad traded at $36.65 late morning on Feb. 21, up slightly over the previous day and up 3.6% from Feb. 18, when the Prolaris research news first broke.

- read the release

Special report: The most influential people in biopharma today - Myriad's Peter Meldrum

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