Oxigene roars back to life on positive ovarian cancer study

Well-traveled biotech Oxigene ($OXGN) watched its share value more than double overnight on the strength of some mid-stage results suggesting its zybrestat can treat ovarian cancer, providing fresh hope for a company that has plumbed the depths in recent years.

In a Phase II trial on 107 patients, a zybrestat-Avastin combo beat out the Roche ($RHHBY) drug alone in progression-free survival, Oxigene said, meeting its primary endpoint. The zybrestat arm failed to reach statistical significance in a secondary goal of objective response, and the company said it needs more time before it can pool data on the all-important overall survival. Oxigene didn't disclose safety results from the trial, which was sponsored by the National Cancer Institute.

Now, after years of cash concerns and start-and-stop development, the South San Francisco biotech has some momentum heading into a possible Phase III trial for zybrestat, and investors are all aboard, sending its shares up as much as 150% to $6 in premarket trading Wednesday.

That's a welcome reversal of fortunes for Oxigene, which in 2011 had to hit the brakes on planned late-stage studies on zybrestat in anaplastic thyroid cancer because it simply couldn't afford to continue. The year before, the biotech sacked half of its staff and moved to focus on the drug's potential in non-small cell lung cancer, a study which has since been scuttled.

Despite the top-line Phase II promise, cash will likely still be an issue for Oxigene as it weighs zybrestat's future. The company closed 2013 with $7 million in the bank, and, despite a $12 million offering last month, the biotech is unlikely sitting on enough money to go it alone on a Phase III trial.

Zybrestat is a vascular disrupting agent, designed to selectively seal off abnormal blood vessels and thereby starve tumors of the oxygen they need to survive. Oxigene's pipeline also includes OXi4503, a Phase I vascular disrupter for leukemia.

- read the release