MEI Pharma shares crash as cancer drug fails mid-stage test

(Reuters) – MEI Pharma was set to lose more than half its market value on Monday after the company’s cancer drug failed to meet the main goal in a mid-stage study.

The drug, pracinostat, was being tested in combination with chemotherapy drug azacitidine to treat patients with myelodysplastic syndrome – a type of blood cancer.

The company said the drug combination showed no difference in complete remission in previously untreated patients with the cancer when compared with azacitidine alone.

Complete remission implies the disappearance of all signs of cancer in response to treatment. It does not always constitute a cure.

MEI Pharma’s shares were down 64 percent at $2.28 in premarket trading. Up to Friday’s closing, the stock had risen 52 percent in the past three months.

The company said it does not plan to start any further studies on the combination of pracinostat and azacitidine until it gains a “complete understanding” of the clinical data.

MEI Pharma said there was a higher rate of discontinuations for the combination compared with those taking azacitidine alone due to side effects such as fatigue, gastrointestinal toxicities and reduced bone marrow activity.

Myelodysplastic syndrome is a type of blood cancer where immature blood cells in the bone marrow fail to mature or become healthy blood cells.

MEI Pharma acquired exclusive worldwide rights for pracinostat from S*BIO Pte Ltd, a privately held biotechnology company, in August 2012.

The United States Food and Drug Administration has granted an orphan status to the drug in treating patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

Orphan status, which is granted to drugs being developed to treat rare diseases, gives the developer incentives such as a seven-year marketing exclusivity.

(Reporting by Rosmi Shaji in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

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