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Why You Want to Keep This Small $2 Biotech Stock On Your Radar

8/2/2017 7:05:15 AM

Why You Want to Keep This Small $2 Biotech Stock On Your Radar August 2, 2017
By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

DelMar Pharmaceuticals (DMPL), based in Vancouver, British Columbia, is getting some publicity because of its pipeline drug, VAL-083, for glioblastoma, the brain cancer that Senator John McCain was recently diagnosed with.

The company’s chief executive officer, Jeffrey Bacha, recently told Benzinga that its drug would be a treatment option for the senator. “Depending on his situation,” he said, “they may determine it is the right thing to reach out to us earlier rather than later. Upon recurrence, he may be eligible for our STAR-3 clinical trial, the Phase III trial for GBM patients who have failed Avastin.”

A little bit self-serving, perhaps, but it wouldn’t be the first time that drug companies have benefited from inadvertent celebrity endorsements. Seeking Alpha notes singer Cyndia Lauper appearing in Novartis (NVS) advertisements for Cosentyx for psoriasis. A less commercial endorsement, however, would be former President Jimmy Carter receiving Merck and Co (MRK)’s Keytruda for his melanoma treatment and having significant improvement. Seeking Alpha writes, “This gave Merck a huge boost in a head-to-head battle of Keytruda vs. Opdivo from Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY). Patients were willing to switch from Opdivo to Keytruda, even though both were basically the same and priced the same. The fact that Carter experienced positive effects gave more patients hope to try Keytruda.”

DelMar’s drug is VAL-083, a first-in-class small molecule chemotherapeutic agent. The drug has been evaluated in 42 Phase I and Phase II clinical trials sponsored by the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) against various cancers, and results have suggested it may be active against many tumor types, including lung, brain, cervical, ovarian and hematologic tumors.

The drug has been approved in China for chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) and lung cancer. It has not yet been approved for any indication outside of China. The company is currently recruiting for a Phase II trial of the drug in glioblastoma. In April, it inked a three-year collaboration pact with Duke University to evaluate VAL-083 as a front-line treatment for newly diagnosed glioblastoma patients, which will be funded by DelMar. A Phase II trial is ongoing with MD Anderson Cancer Center for first recurrence of glioblastoma prior to bevacizumab (Avastin) treatment. And in China, it has been approved to initiate a Phase II trial of VAL-083 in newly diagnosed MGMT-unmethylated glioblastoma multiforme, a sub-population of glioblastoma patients that makes up 67 percent of diagnosed cases of glioblastoma. However, the drug failed a Phase III trial in combination with temozolomide and Avastin.
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Glioblastoma is an aggressive brain cancer, the most common type of brain cancer. It makes up 16 percent of all brain malignancies. It is considered rare, affecting 3 out of 100,000 people in the U.S., with 13,000 new cases each year. It is aggressive, spreading throughout the brain, but for reasons not understood, does not metastasize outside the brain.

Sen. McCain’s prognosis is probably not good. STAT wrote, “After undergoing surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, some 70 percent of patients suffer further spread of their glioblastoma along with such serious side effects as cognitive decline and strokes.” Statistically, about 5 percent of glioblastoma patients survive past five years, and only about 50 percent survive past 15 months.

DelMar is hardly the only company to be working on treatments for glioblastoma. There are about 157 ongoing clinical trials in the U.S., and just some of the other companies working in the area include Takeda Pharmaceuticals (TKPYY), Boston Biomedical, EMD Serono, Ziopharm Oncology (ZIOP.OB), Celldex Therapeutics (CLDX), Berg and Oncorus, as well as numerous others.

Seeking Alpha writes, “Shares of DelMar Pharmaceuticals hit a recent high of $2.84 several weeks ago as news of John McCain being a possible fit by the company hit the news. Volume also hit an impressive two million, nearly ten times the normal daily volume for DMPI shares. Shares quickly were sent downward to the $2 level that they have spent a lot of recent time at. Shares have traded as high as $8.15 over the last 52 weeks.”

DelMar shares are currently trading at $2.06.

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