Geron Soars After Study Shows Bone Marrow Drug’s Benefit

Geron Corp. rose as much as 18 percent after a Mayo Clinic study found the biotechnology company’s experimental drug imetelstat helped patients with a bone marrow cancer.

Geron increased 4.4 percent to $6.13 at 10:09 a.m. New York time after reaching $6.92, the highest intraday price since Nov. 7. The Menlo Park, California-based company’s shares had climbed more than fourfold this year through yesterday.

Researchers studied imetelstat in 22 myelofibrosis patients for at least six months, five of whom achieved partial or complete remission, the Rochester, Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic said in a statement yesterday. The clinic said 41 percent of participants in the Geron-funded trial responded to the drug.

“This is their only pipeline candidate,” Brian Klein, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus & Co. in New York, said in a telephone interview. “It’s extremely important for them that the trial is viewed as a success.”

The data was released ahead of the American Society of Hematology meeting that starts tomorrow in New Orleans. While Klein cautioned that the entire study results haven’t yet been presented, he said he believes the data will remain positive.

Myelofibrosis is a chronic myeloid cancer in which bone marrow cells that produce blood cells function abnormally, according to Mayo Clinic. As a result, scar tissue forms in the bone marrow and can cause severe anemia that requires transfusion, weakness, fatigue and an enlarged spleen and liver.

“Some patients in our clinical trial taking imetelstat obtained dramatic responses and there have been some complete responses which is almost unheard of for drug therapy in this disease,” the study’s lead author, Ayalew Tefferi, a hematologist at Mayo Clinic, said in the statement. “These are early results but they are promising.”