Promising leukemia drug provides boost for Micromet
Micromet, a biopharmaceutical company based in Rockville, Maryland, received a boost from promising research which suggests their new antibody agent called blinatumomab, may be a useful weapon against acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Following the company’s press release, Micromet’s stock (MITI), which trades on the NASDAQ, was up 8.75% after the close of trade Friday.
Data from a small study, due to be presented at the 16th Annual Meeting of the European Hematology Association (EHA) in London, shows that blinatumomab, an experimental drug, produced complete remission in 9 of 12 patients with ALL who had relapsed following standard therapy. These same 9 patients showed no molecular evidence of leukemic cells after blinatumomab therapy, indicating a complete remission from the disease. Side effects from the antibody therapy included fever, fatigue, and swelling of the feet.
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow, in which early lymphoid precursor cells proliferate rapidly and impede the production of normal red blood cells in the marrow. Conventional treatment of this disease includes standard chemotherapy regimens and corticosteroids (prednisone, dexamethasone). Currently, only 20-40% of patients diagnosed with ALL are considered “cured” after standard treatment. For patients who suffer a relapse, there is a five-year survival rate of only 5%. In addition to this grim statistic, the chemotherapy used in this disease has its own risks, with mortality rates of up to 25%. Complications of chemotherapy include suppression of the bone marrow in patients, which exposes the patients to many opportunistic infections, which can also prove fatal.
Blinatumomab is the first new agent in nearly thirty years to be introduced for the treatment of relapsed ALL. This research, while preliminary, is extremely intriguing for researchers and clnicians in this field of oncology. The above noted trial of 12 patients was the first phase of the trial. In the next phase, 25 patients, who failed standard chemotherapy regimens, will receive blinatumomab. By 2012, it is hoped that the next phase of the research will reach the U.S. It is not known when Micromet plans to market the drug in the United States. In the meantime, leukemia researchers will be looking with interest at the next phase of this research, and the possibility of using blinatumomab in the treatment of other blood cancers, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.