Endocyte, Inc. Faces Big Decisions On Cancer Drug Vintafolide

Published: Oct 01, 2014

Endocyte, Inc. Faces Big Decisions On Cancer Drug Vintafolide

October 1, 2014

By Jessica Wilson, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Indiana biotech Endocyte, Inc. announced Tuesday that vintafolide, a small molecule drug conjugate (SMDC), in combination with docetaxel, an already approved chemotherapy drug, extended the life of patients in the study by approximately six months compared to the existing treatment of FR-positive NSCLC.

The data was presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology Congress (ESMO) on Sept. 29. It was the successful result of the company's Phase IIb trial of vintafolide for the treatment of patients with folate receptor (FR) positive recurrent non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC),

The jury had been out on vintafolide since a Phase III study of the drug for the treatment of a certain type of ovarian cancer had been stopped in May 2014.

In an article published in the Indiana Business Journal in May 2014, Endocyte CEO Ron Ellis was quoted as stating, “We were surprised and disappointed to learn of the independent Data Safety Monitoring Board recommendation to stop the Phase 3 [trial] in platinum-resistant ovarian cancer.”

At that time, share prices of the company fell 60 percent, but Endocyte said it would continue to test vintafolide for the treatment of lung cancer.

Despite the exciting news about vintafolide, West Lafayette, Ind.-based Endocyte may still choose not to pursue the drug. The company currently has another drug, EC1456, in its pipeline that has also produced positive results for the treatment of cancer in Phase I trials and could be 20 times more powerful than vintafolide, with fewer side effects.

“Vintafolide really reflects what we knew in about 2001. Now, 1456 reflects what we know in 2013. A decade of research and work. And that’s why we’re pretty optimistic about the new drugs,” Ellis was quoted as saying in an interview with Indiana Business Journal on September 27.

The primary issue is: does Endocyte have enough money to run two Phase III trials?

Endocyte says, yes. In a press release from the company, Ellis stated, “Our financial strength enables us to explore moving forward with more than one of our wholly owned pipeline agents in select indications should it be the most beneficial path for the company and patients."

However, some financial analysts, as reported in the Indiana Business Journal, have expressed doubt that Endocyte does have the money to run two Phase III trials and that the company will likely pursue EC1456. Analysts expect Endocyte to make a decision on the drugs in its pipeline next year.

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