Garo Armen, CEO and founder of Agenus Inc., said data from a recent brain cancer vaccine trial is "good news for us, and good news for patients."
Agenus Inc. (Nasdaq: AGEN) on Wednesday reported results from a mid-stage trial of a potential brain cancer vaccine showing big increases in both progression-free and overall survival.
Garo Armen, CEO and founder of the Lexington, Mass.-based biotech, told Mass High Tech that the trial involved 46 newly-diagnosed glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) patients in a Phase 2 study. The results showed that those treated with the company’s Prophage G-100 vaccine in addition to the current standard of care (radiation and temozolomide) lived nearly eight months longer on average - a 60 percent increase - than those who received only the current standard of care.
Among the same patients, those who received Prophage G-100 saw a 146 percent increase in the length of time without worsening of symptoms: such progression-free survival was 17 months for those who received the vaccine, compared to 7 months for those who received the standard of care.
“Those numbers exceed the standard of care by a significant margin,” Armen said. “It’s good news for us, and good news for patients.”
Most of the enrolled patients are still being followed, according to a statement from the company, and both sets of data “will continue to mature as more data are collected.”
Armen said the company is mulling over options for a Phase 3 trial, and expect to disclose those plans before the end of the year. He also said the company may plan a trial in conjunction with a biomarker, which can better predict the vaccine’s chance of success in patients.
“Certainly this program needs to be taken forward,” he said. “The question is in what way to maximize the chances of success.”
Agenus, which has 70 employees, most of whom are based in the Lexington headquarters, was co-founded by Armen and Pramod Srivastava in 1994. The company focused on immunology and operated under the name Antigenics until it changed its name in early 2011.
The company does not yet have a drug approved, but Armen said he’s expecting readouts of data from Phase 3 trials this year of its MAGE-A3 vaccine, being developed with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). If there is positive data from the trials, which are targeting both melanoma and non-small cell lung cancer, Armen said the company’s first drug could be on the market by 2014, he said.
For the first three months of the year, the company reported a net loss of $8.8 million, or 35 cents a share, compared with a net income of $6.6 million, or 29 cents a share, in the same time a year ago, when the company received a one-time payments from GSK. It had $17.2 million in cash as of the end of March.
In a statement last week, Armen said that since the close of the quarter, the company “successfully restructured and significantly reduced (its) debt.
As of 1 p.m. Wednesday, the company’s stock was trading flat at $4.83., down about 24 percent over the past year.