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Synta Rises on Potential for Novel Cancer Drug: Boston Mover

Synta Pharmaceuticals Corp. gained the most in 20 months in anticipation of study results that may help pave the way for broader use of its experimental lung cancer compound ganetespib.

Synta rose 16 percent to $4.81 at the close in New York, the biggest increase since September 2010. Interim results of the study should be released by Lexington, Massachusetts-based Synta in June, Thomas Wei, an analyst at Jefferies & Co. in New York, said yesterday in a note to clients.

The trial results may show that the drug has the potential to help a much larger group of lung-cancer patients than expected, Wei said. While the focus has been on people with mutations in the ALK gene, patients with mutations in the KRAS gene and those with high levels of lactate dehydrogenase may also benefit, he said.

“These two subgroups likely address a larger market opportunity than we have previously modeled in lung cancer,” Wei said. “We believe the details from the Phase 2b lung cancer trial expected next month could lead to significant valuation upside, and we would be buyers ahead of that data release.”

Patients with mutated KRAS genes make up 15 percent to 30 percent of lung cancer cases, and those with high lactate dehydrogenase, a marker of oxygen levels, are found in 20 percent to 30 percent of cases, Wei said. Synta executives say the drug’s ultimate value may stem from its action in those two groups, rather than in the smaller number of patients with ALK mutations, he wrote.

Synta shares have fallen 16 percent in the past 12 months.

An estimated 222,520 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with lung cancer in 2010, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The drug inhibits a protein, known as heat shock protein 90, that helps activate many cancer-promoting compounds in the body and supports the growth and survival of tumor cells. Synta is studying the drug for several types of cancer in patients who have failed prior therapy.

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