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Halozyme rises on pancreatic cancer drug study

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of Halozyme Therapeutics Inc. climbed Thursday after the company reported clinical trial data for an experimental cancer drug.

THE SPARK: Halozyme posted results from an early-stage trial that included its drug PEGPH20 as a treatment for pancreatic cancer. The regimen included PEGPH20 and the cancer drug Gemzar.

Halozyme said PEGPH20 may make tumors more vulnerable to treatment by depleting their defenses and changing their metabolism.

The company said in April that it would proceed to mid-stage testing on about 124 patients. Halozyme is also studying a diagnostic tool to help identify patients who could benefit from the drug.

THE BIG PICTURE: Halozyme's Enhanze technology is designed to temporarily break down a substance in the body that forms a barrier between cells so drugs can be absorbed faster. That would allow some drugs to be delivered by an injection instead of an IV drip.

Halozyme's drug development partners include Roche, Pfizer, Baxter International Inc., and ViroPharma Inc.

THE ANALYSIS: Wedbush analyst Gregory Wade said the report "looks promising," but he said it may not be as strong as it looks. Since PEGPH20 is designed to attack a matrix around tumors, it's possible the drug simply removed that layer without affecting the rest of the tumor in a significant way. Wade said a series of PET scans would make the results clearer.

He rates Halozyme shares "Neutral."

SHARE ACTION: Halozyme rose $1.24, or 18.4 percent, to close at $7.98. The stock has traded between $3.86 and $9.92 in the past 52 weeks.