Threshold Pharma rises on analyst comment

Threshold Pharma rises on analyst comment

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of Threshold Pharmaceuticals Inc. jumped Thursday after an analyst boosted his price target on the stock, saying Threshold's main cancer drug is "one of the leading pancreatic cancer candidates."

THE SPARK: Lazard Capital Markets analyst Brian Klein raised his price target to $15 per share from $7. Threshold is planning to present new data on its experimental cancer treatment TH-302 next week at a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, and Klein said he thinks that data will confirm that TH-302 slows the progression of pancreatic cancer.

Klein said he expects TH-302 to work about as well as the standard chemotherapy regimen in extending the survival of pancreatic cancer patients. He said there is reason to think TH-302 is more effective than other experimental pancreatic cancer drugs because it appears to be about as effective as standard treatments, but looks safer.

"We believe TH-302 now represents one of the leading pancreatic cancer candidates in clinical development," Klein wrote, adding that the promising mid-stage trial data must be confirmed by late-stage studies.

Klein also said thinks the drug could be approved as a treatment for soft tissue sarcoma by early 2015, and approval in pancreatic cancer would come after that.

THE BIG PICTURE: TH-302 is Threshold's main drug candidate. In February, German drugmaker Merck KGaA agreed to help develop TH-302 and market it if it is approved. Merck KGaA will pay Threshold $25 million upfront, and the company could get another $35 million in payments this year. Threshold said it could get as much as $525 million from the deal if TH-302 moves successfully through clinical development and regulatory review and reaches sales targets after being approved. It will also get royalties on any sales.

Merck KGaA will cover most of the development costs for the drug.

Also in February, the company reported mid-stage trial results showing that TH-302 is more effective than a chemotherapy regimen at slowing the progression of advanced pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer often kills patients in a short time because it is frequently not identified until it has advanced too far to be removed surgically. It is the fourth most-common cause of cancer death in the U.S. and worldwide, and only 5 percent of patients live five years or longer after their diagnosis.

The study compared TH-302 and the cancer drug Gemzar to chemotherapy and Gemzar.

The South San Francisco, Calif., company is running a late-stage trial of TH-302 and the chemotherapy drug Doxil as a treatment for soft tissue sarcoma, a rare cancer that affects muscles attached to bones. TH-302 is also being studied as a treatment for solid tumors in combination with a variety of other drugs, and Threshold is also running several preclinical studies of the drug.

SHARE ACTION: Threshold Pharmaceuticals shares rose 42 cents, or 5.3 percent, to $8.38 in midday trading. Earlier the stock rose as much as 10.2 percent. Shares of Threshold have more than doubled in value since Feb. 21, and its value has increased sixfold since the partnership with Merck KGaA was announced Feb. 3.