Two biotechs making drugs to treat the blood cancer multiple myeloma saw their stocks headed in opposite directions Thursday over positive news for one and a setback for the other.
Onyx Pharmaceuticals (ONXX) rocketed 43% to a record-high 63.78 after a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel late Wednesday backed Onyx's Kyprolis, or carfilzomi, for patients with relapsed and refractory multiple myeloma who have received at least two prior lines of therapy. The FDA normally follows its panels' advice.
Meanwhile, Celgene (CELG) tumbled 11.5% to 59.44 after it said it would withdraw submission in Europe for a new indication for its drug Revlimid. Celgene had been seeking permission to use the drug to treat newly diagnosed multiple myeloma patients who have not progressed after initial treatments with some other drugs, or to serve as maintenance therapy following stem cell transplants.
Multiple myeloma is a type of blood cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that 21,700 U.S. cases will be diagnosed in 2012.
Onyx's Kyprolis will be used as a "drug of last resort" at first, but "there's a good chance that very quickly it will be used earlier in myeloma patients," said Jim Birchenough, an analyst with BMO Capital Markets.
"Despite the approval of four new treatments between 2003 and 2007, nearly all patients eventually relapse or become refractory to treatment," the nonprofit Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation said in a statement. "The five-year relative survival rate for multiple myeloma is approximately 38%, one of the lowest of all cancers, making it critical that we have new treatments like Kyprolis that specifically target these patient populations.
Ligand Pharmaceuticals (LGND), which supplies a key ingredient for Kyprolis, rose 13% to 16.49.
Celgene's Revlimid already is a main blood cancer drug and the biotech's top moneymaker. Now it's looking to expand the use.
Celgene plans to resubmit its proposal in Europe with "more mature data," it said in a statement. In the U.S., it anticipates a new indication application to the FDA in 2013.
Drugs deemed safer and with fewer side effects are typically given early in cancer treatments and those with greater risk for severe adverse effects are used later, Birchenough says.
Celgene investors overreacted, he says. The company has good prospects for earnings growth and a clear path to resubmission in Europe.