Oncolytics head-and-neck cancer drug study fails to impress


By Esha Dey and Garima Goel

Nov 21 (Reuters) - Oncolytics Biotech Inc's lead cancer drug did not show as much improvement insurvival rates of patients with head-and-neck cancer as expectedby investors, sending its shares down as much as 21 percent.

The company said the drug improved survival in patientswithout their cancer worsening compared with those receivingchemotherapy alone, but did not say whether these results werestatistically significant.

Analysts, however, said the improvement was difficult toassess due to lack of data on analyses of the trial.

A late-stage trial showed that 88 patients getting Reolysin- in combination with chemotherapy drugs carboplatin andpaclitaxel - had a median survival rate of 150 days withouttheir cancer worsening, the company said on Thursday.

Patients receiving chemotherapy alone showed a mediansurvival rate of 115 days.

However, a statistically significant increase was reportedin the number of patients on Reolysin experiencing mild fever,chills, nausea and diarrhea.

The persistent low-grade fever led to dropouts, shrinkingthe pool of patients.

"There may have been some anticipation that there would bestronger statistically significant effect ... the late dropoutsprobably impacted that," Wedbush Securities analyst Gregory Wadesaid.

Oncolytics also did not provide sufficient data on overallsurvival, which was the main goal of the trial, as the data wasdistorted with patients dropping out of the trial receivingadditional treatment.

The company is also studying Reolysin in pancreatic,ovarian, colorectal, lung, prostate, and breast cancers.

Reolysin was safe and well-tolerated in the clinical study,the Calgary-based company said.

Oncolytics shares were down 20.5 percent at C$2.09 on theToronto Stock Exchange. The company's Nasdaq-listed shares weredown 20 percent at $2.

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