Can Endocyte Survive Its Cancer Drug Implosion?

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Drug makers Endocyte Inc. (NASDAQ: ECYT) and Merck & Co. (NYSE: MRK) have terminated their joint late-stage study of an ovarian cancer treatment after the trials failed to show results. The Data Safety Monitoring Board recommended that the trial be stopped.

Endocyte’s stock was halted Friday morning, after trading down more than 60% from the previous close of $17.38.

No safety concerns were raised about the drug, vintafolide, and Endocyte expressed surprise at the recommendation to halt the trial. The company said that it and Merck would review and validate the data before making a “formal decision regarding the execution of the trial.”

Endocyte recently closed a secondary offering that raised net proceeds of $101.8 million, and says it now has $233.3 million available in cash, cash equivalents and investments. The firm’s chief financial officer said that the company is “in a strong financial position to advance our next proprietary candidates through clinical development in multiple cancers.”

The company will continue to test vintafolide as a treatment for non-small-cell lung cancer, where the data is more favorable so far. Late-stage data from the tests is expected to be available later this year. The indications for the drug as a treatment for lung cancer is more important to Endocyte because the market for a lung cancer treatment is much larger. Merck may choose not to continue its participation in the lung cancer study, though, putting more pressure on Endocyte.

Endocyte shares traded down about 62%, at $6.68 in a 52-week range of $6.50 to $33.70. The low was set Friday.

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