Amgen Shares Rise After Positive Xgeva Cancer Study

Shares of California-based pharmaceuticals company Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) rose as much as 7% on Tuesday after the company said its drug Xgeva delayed the spread of prostate cancer to bones in patients compared to placebo.

In a late-stage trial of 1,432 patients, the drug also known as denosumab prevented what’s known as bone metastasis -- or when sold tumors spread to bone tissue --  in prostate cancer patients for 4.2 months. The study could lead to a third approved use for denosumab, which is already used to treat osteoporosis and bone complications in some cancer patients.

The study found no improvement in survival in patients, but the study was not designed to study cancer survival rates once cancer had metastasized in bone tissue.

Amgen said in a statement it plans on presenting the data at a medical conference sometime next year. One study is typically not enough to approve a new use for an already-existing medication, but it can be enough to get the process going.

The study is significant for Amgen, which like many other pharmaceutical companies is increasingly reliant on aging drug patents that are running out in the upcoming years. Because denosumab is already approved, a new use of the medication could extend the patent life by several years. Some analysts estimate a new use for denosumab could add $1 billion in annual sales for Amgen.

However, the lack of survival benefit for Xgeva in this study could also hinder both regulatory approval and drug adoption.

Shares of Amgen were up 2.7% on Tuesday to $55.60. They had been up as much as 7% in earlier trading.