ArQule Shares Surge on Met-Inhibitor Data
ArQule’s stock has doubled this morning on new data from a Phase II trial of its lead drug candidate ARQ197, in patients with tough-to-treat lung cancer.
ARQ197 targets the Met receptor, a protein involved in helping cancer spread. As we wrote a few years back, in the pantheon of tyrosine-kinase receptors implicated in cancer, Met comes off as a particularly sinister protein. "Met is one of the highest and most frequently occurring gene products in tumors," George Vande Woude, research director of the Van Andel Institute, a cancer research center in Grand Rapids, Mich., and discoverer of the c-Met gene, told us at the time.
In ArQule’s trial, a combination of Genentech’s targeted lung cancer drug Tarceva, which blocks the EGFR receptor, and ARQ197 kept the disease from spreading for 16.1 weeks versus a delay of 9.7 weeks in patients given Tarceva alone. The results results were more striking in a subset of the population with a specific cell type.
You might look at the data and think, hmm, an extra two months, that’s not much. But its important to remember that these patients are in the latest stages of the disease, and have already been treated with many other drugs that have failed to slow down the cancer. “I think it does provide validation for Met,” says Needham & Co. analyst Mark Monane. “This is solid Phase II data in combination with Tarceva, that’s two targeted therapies together.”
ArQule is also studying using the drug in combination with other targeted agents, like Bayer/Onyx’s Nexavar and Eli Lilly’s Gemzar. “Is this the beginning of a beautiful friendship between 197 and commonly used agents? Could be,” Monane says.
Those who have been keeping an eye on the c-Met landscape might recall that Exelixis has two of its own c-Met inhibitors in the clinic. However, the South San Francisco-based company is taking a different approach, and rather than potently hitting that one receptor, is blocking several proteins at once. XL184, partnered with Bristol-Myers Squibb and in Phase III trials, hits MET, VEGFR2, and RET, while XL880, partnered with GlaxoSmithKline, inhibits MET and VEGFR2.
“I think the jury is out on whether you want a single, targeted c-Met inhibitor or something more promiscuous,” Monane says.