August 13, 2019 / 11:35 AM / 4 days ago

UPDATE 3-Deciphera shares skyrocket as cancer drug improves progression-free survival

(Adds analyst comment; updates shares)

By Aakash B

Aug 13 (Reuters) - Deciphera Pharmaceuticals Inc's shares more than doubled on Tuesday after the drugmaker said its treatment helped stomach cancer patients live longer without their disease worsening in a late-stage study.

The treatment, ripretinib, was tested against placebo in 129 patients with advanced gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST), a rare cancer affecting the digestive tract, who had received at least 3 prior therapies.

Ripretinib demonstrated a median progression-free survival rate of 6.3 months compared with a month in case of placebo, the company said, adding that the drug significantly reduced the risk of disease progression or death by 85%.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 11,000 Americans will die from stomach cancer in 2019.

Chief Executive Officer Steven Hoerter said the drug's effectiveness and safety profile differentiates it from competition, adding that the data shows potential in the treatment to become best in its class.

The company expects to submit a marketing application for ripretinib to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the first quarter of 2020. The treatment was granted 'Fast Track' status in June to treat patients with advanced GIST who have received certain prior treatment.

"The strength of the data is really unprecedented in the space ... and we see this data blowing the competition out of the water," Nomura Instinet analyst Christopher Marai said about the latest trial result.

One potential rival, Blueprint Medicines Corp, submitted an application in June for approval of avapritinib, its treatment for GIST patients, to the U.S. health regulator. The drug is being reviewed as a treatment for GIST patients who have received at least 2 prior therapies.

"Ripretinib compares favorably to Blueprint's avapritinib on both safety and effectiveness," Piper Jaffray analyst Christopher Raymond said in a note.

Marai also said that since ripretinib's trial data is so positive, it is even more likely to benefit patients who have received just one or two prior therapies.

The treatment was in fact well tolerated in an early-stage study testing it in GIST patients who had received at least one prior therapy, the company said.

Marai expects peak sales for ripretinib from the United States and the European Union to be over $1 billion by 2025.

Shares of Waltham, Massachusetts-based Deciphera were trading up 93.8% at $38.66 in morning trading. (Reporting by Aakash Jagadeesh Babu in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)

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