Shares of Durham’s Heat Biologics rise on positive lung cancer data

Durham drug developer Heat Biologics reported Monday that its experimental lung cancer vaccine posted good enough results to advance to phase 2 trials, sending shares of the company up more than 38 percent at one point during trading.

The company’s cancer vaccine, HS-110, was tested in combination with the pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb’s anti-PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor, nivolumab, for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer. The results of the phase 1 trial met the criteria for advancement to phase 2 trials, the company said.

The trial was administered by the Data Monitoring Committee (DMC), which is an independent group that monitors clinical trials. It found that there did not appear to be additional toxicities in the HS-110-nivolumab combination compared to existing data on nivolumab alone.

Additionally, five out of 15 patients treated with the HS-110-nivolumab combination had 20 percent or greater tumor reduction, the company said.

Heat Biologics previously reported positive data for HS-110 in December.

“We are pleased with the DMC’s decision to expand the trial to a Phase 2 given the positive clinical responses seen to-date. We saw that those patients with increased levels of (tumor infiltrating lymphocytes) at 10 weeks had a durable benefit, with six out of eight of these patients (75 percent) alive at the one-year follow-up point,” said Jeff Hutchins, Heat Biologics chief scientific officer, in a prepared statement.

Shares of Heat Biologics hit $1.25 per share at one point during trading before settling by the market’s close at 97 cents per share — up 7.8 percent on the previous day’s close.

Last week, the company announced it acquired a controlling interest in the Austin, Texas-based biotech company Pelican Therapeutics in a deal valued at around $1.5 million. That acquisition represented a further investment into T-cell therapy, a type of treatment that takes a patient’s white blood cells and reprograms them to attack tumors, for Heat Biologics.

The continued efficacy of Heat Biologics’ lung cancer drug comes in contrast to another treatment the company is developing for bladder cancer. Last November, the company’s stock plunged more than 60 percent after its bladder cancer drug posted negative results in phase 2 trials.

Zachery Eanes: 919-419-6684, @zeanes