Synta’s Cancer Drug May Help Patients When Other Medicines Fail

Synta Pharmaceuticals Corp. (SNTA), a Massachusetts drug developer with no marketed products, showed its cancer therapy ganetespib helped some patients with lung and stomach tumors without causing serious side effects in studies.

Ganetespib helped stabilize disease in patients with lung cancer and gastrointestinal stromal tumors, or GIST, who tested positive for certain gene mutations and weren’t helped by other therapies, according to two trials. The studies, from the second of three stages of tests needed for regulatory approval, will be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting, which starts June 3 in Chicago.

Lung cancer patients with mutations called EGFR and KRAS benefited from the medicine in a study of 73 people, the data showed. In the GIST trial, 12 out of 23 patients saw their disease stabilize, with the data showing that patients with certain gene mutations responded better than others.

“Phase II data at ASCO could help investors more accurately assess the potential for ganetespib,” Jason Kantor, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets in San Francisco, wrote in a May 5 research note. The Lexington-based company expects to seek a partner for ganetespib or another drug in development, with at least one deal anticipated this year, Kantor wrote.

An estimated 222,520 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with lung cancer in 2010, according to the National Cancer Institute. Non-small cell is the most common form of the disease. There are an estimated 3,300 to 6,000 new cases of GIST each year in the U.S., the Institute said.

Synta fell 4 cents, or less than 1 percent, to $5.96 at 4:30 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The shares have lost 2.6 percent this year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Meg Tirrell in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at

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