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Why This Small Biotech Is A Dangerous Rival To Amgen In Colon Cancer

Mirati Therapeutics (MRTX) could beat Amgen (AMGN) to market with a KRAS-blocking colon cancer drug, an analyst said Monday as MRTX stock rocketed to a six-month high.




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Late Sunday, Mirati said 22% of colon cancer patients responded to treatment with its drug adagrasib. The drug also prevented their cancer from worsening for a median of 5.6 months. The results add to a growing body of evidence that it’s possible to treat cancers driven by a difficult-to-treat mutation in a protein called KRAS.

The results likely surpass what the Food and Drug Administration would require for accelerated approval, SVB Leerink analyst Andrew Berens said. He doesn’t expect the same for Amgen’s drug Lumakras. In one test, just 7% of colon cancer patients responded to treatment with Lumakras.

“We believe that there is likely to be an accelerated pathway available to monotherapy adagrasib, unlike Lumakras, which will likely allow adagrasib to get first-mover advantage in colorectal cancer,” he said in a note to clients.

In midday trading on the stock market today, MRTX stock popped 4.7% near 182.20. Amgen stock fell 1.3% near 216.50.

MRTX Stock Surges On Colon Cancer Test

Mirati also tested adagrasib in combination with a drug called cetuximab. Cetuximab sells under the brand name Erbitux. It’s an Eli Lilly (LLY) drug that targets a receptor called EGFR. The combination led to an overall response rate of 43%.

Last week, Amgen said 27% of colon cancer patients responded to a regimen of its drugs Lumakras and Vectibix. Vectibix targets the same receptor as Erbitux.

Amgen’s Lumakras is already approved in lung cancer, while Mirati is still working toward approval in that space. But Mirati could carve its own niche in colon cancer ahead of Amgen, Berens said. He kept his outperform rating on MRTX stock.

“We think a first-mover advantage in colorectal cancer could be difficult to displace and could allow access to off-label usage in earlier lines of therapy, given that EGFR inhibitors are already commercially available,” he said.

Follow Allison Gatlin on Twitter at @IBD_AGatlin.

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