A renal cancer study fails and stock plunges, but Bionomics stays upbeat

It requires a fair amount of patience, but if you take some time with Bionomics' release on the Phase II study of their lead cancer drug you'll see that the trial failed, with progression-free survival for a combo use of the therapy with Afinitor tracking closely to the same PFS rate for renal cancer as a control arm which was treated with Afinitor only. The investment community apparently managed to accomplish the heavy lifting, though, pushing shares for the Australian penny stock company down 30% after the data drop.

As is the case with many small-cap biotechs, Adelaide-based Bionomics (ASX:BNO) preferred to highlight "groundbreaking" results on its exploration of biomarkers while spotlighting subgroup analysis which indicated to the company that specific patient populations in the 136-patient study demonstrated signs of a response. More advanced cancer patients were helped by the drug, Bionomics asserted, offering hope that future studies would deliver statistically significant data that a more targeted approach would work. There was no word in its release on just how many patients were in some of the subgroups that exhibited signs of a response.

"DISRUPTOR-1 has produced a ground-breaking discovery of potential biomarkers that may allow pre-treatment selection of patients most likely to benefit from BNC105," declared Bionomics CEO Deborah Rathjen, putting the best possible spin on the trial in a statement. "Significant progress has been made in validating BNC105 as an anti-cancer agent. Through patient subgroup analysis and association of biomarkers to treatment benefit, the data from this trial shows us the best way forward to maximizing the utility of BNC105 for renal cancer patients, as well as how to best employ the drug in other cancer types."

New partnering opportunities await, she added.

This is the second time this year that Bionomics has disappointed investors. Press reports from Australia note that investors were unhappy when an update on early-stage results for BNC105 in ovarian cancer--declared to be very promising--didn't come with an expected marketing pact.

Bionomics has scored a pair of discovery and development partnerships with well known biopharma companies. Last year, Merck ($MRK) signed up for a partnership to discover new pain drugs, and two years ago Ironwood Pharmaceuticals ($IRWD) inked a $345 million deal to collaborate on BNC210, an antianxiety drug. 

- here's the release