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Peregrine Pharmaceuticals to Lift Veil on Cancer Drug Study Friday

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The data will help decide whether the company's experimental treatment bavituximab will gain a development partner and move into the next phase of study.

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MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL Shares of Peregrine Pharmaceuticals (PPHM) jumped more than 500% over the past few months as investors await results of a mid-stage study testing its drug for lung cancer. That's quite a comeback for a company that was in danger of being booted from the Nasdaq Stock Market in March because its price was so low.

On Friday, study data for Peregrine's drug, bavituximab, will be presented at a medical meeting in Chicago. The results will be carefully scrutinized by the medical and investor communities and the data will determine the company's next step, which includes signing a development partner and taking the drug into the next phase of studies.

In a recent interview with Minyanville, Peregrine CEO Steven King said he's had 15 face-to-face meetings with potential development partners. A partner would help Peregrine pay for the third and final phase of studies generally needed for US approval of a drug. King's hope is to find a partner that would allow Peregrine to retain some of the US sales rights for the drug if it should ever be approved.

Peregrine is testing bavituximab as a second-line treatment for lung cancer, a sizable market worth at least $1 billion according to King. The drug is being tested in combination with the chemotherapy docetaxel. Sanofi (SNY) sells the drug branded as Taxotere, while Hospira (HSP) sells generic docetaxel.

Researchers on Thursday announced a general description of the bavituximab results, saying the drug combined with docetaxel improved survival rates in patients who already received a prior chemo therapy. The median progression-free survival rate for two different doses of bavituximab was 4.2 months and 4.5 months compared with three months for patients who received docetaxel and a placebo. The problem is that top-line data was already disclosed in May. The updated data and the details within the results should give a clearer picture on Friday.

"This rigorous phase II trial demonstrates that not only is bavituximab well tolerated when given with docetaxel but it improves response rates, progression free survival and overall survival of second-line chemotherapy in patients with advanced [lung cancer]," David Gerber, lead researcher for the study and an assistant professor of internal medicine at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, says in a statement. "If a phase III trial confirms these findings, bavituximab could become a major component of standard treatment for patients with this challenging disease."

Gerber is scheduled to present the study results at 1:40 p.m. Central Time Friday at the Chicago Multidisciplinary Symposium in Thoracic Oncology.

Peregrine shares rose 2% to $3.10 in morning trading Thursday.

Twitter: @brettchase

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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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