Cell Therapeutics says Pacritinib Phase I Data Warrants Continued Development

Early Monday, Cell Therapeutics (NASDAQ:CTIC) announced that its JAK2 inhibitor pacritinib demonstrated good tolerability and evidence of cancer-fighting behavior in a 34 patient Phase I trial for relapsed lymphoma. Patients reported only mild to moderate gastrointestinal side effects, even at high doses, and half of patients showed a reduction in tumor measurements between 4% and 70%. Patients in the dose-finding trial had failed a median of five prior therapies, and researchers believe the findings warrant further study in a Phase II trial as either a single agent, or in a combination therapy. The drug, which CTIC acquired in April from S*BIO, is also in pre-Phase III development for myelofibrosis. Details from the pacritinib trial were published in this month’s issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Cell Therapeutics most recently made headlines with the European launch of Pixuvri for relapsed Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Pixuvri (pixantrone) has conditional marketing authorization in the E.U., allowing sales prior to approval because the drug treats a largely unmet medical need. Bulls are citing the launch as a value-driving event for the development-stage company, however analysts contest the size and opportunity of the European market for the drug. The company only regained NASDAQ minimum-bid compliance last week after implementing a 1-5 reverse stock split in early September. Shares will be strong today on the Phase I data, but don’t expect a long-term rally from the news. Even after Pixuvri’s European launch, which has potential to generate revenue and improve the balance sheet, shares were buoyed only temporarily.