Little Movement for Healthcare Sector; Mack Pharmaceuticals Rising After Positive Indications in 2 Drug Trials

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Healthcare stocks are little changed this afternoon, with the NYSE Healthcare Sector Index rising less than 0.1% while shares of healthcare companies in the S&P 500 are down less than 0.1% as a group.

In company news, Mack Pharmaceuticals Inc. ( MACK ) is rising as much as 24% after saying its MM-121 drug candidate positively identified biomarkers in a pair of Phase II studies that could help doctors choose which drugs would be most effective treating certain forms of breast cancer.

MM-121 is a monoclonal antibody designed to target the ErbB3 (HER3) receptor and to interfere with growth factor-mediated resistance to standard-of-care therapies.

In one study, the doubled-blinded, placebo-controled trial found when MM-121 was used in combination with another chemotherapy drug, exemestane, it was more effective in prolonging progression-free survival than exemestane alone in breast cancer patients who had previously failed anti-estrogen therapy.

The second open-label Phase II study compared the pathologic complete response rate in patients with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer when MM-121 was used in combination with paclitaxel followed by doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide, three other drugs used alone or in combination to treat a wide range of cancers such as ovarian and lung cancers in addition to certain brain tumors and leukemia.

Approximately three out of every four types of breast cancers are estrogen positive, meaning they grow in response to the hormone. The second trial found that 10.8% of the patients receiving a combination of MM-121 and paclitaxel achieved a complete response compared to 3.3% rate in the control arm.

At last look, MACK shares were up 10.4% to $3.47 each after earlier climbing to an intra-day high of $3.90 a share. Despite today's hefty gains, the stock remains well off its 52-week high of $7.50 a share.

Separately, MACK and Actavis plc ( ACT ) announced a collaboration agreement using MACK's proprietary nanoliposomal technology platform to develop and manufacture new drugs for ACT to commercialize around the world. ACT shares are up 0.1% at $163.19 apiece.

In other sector news,

(+) VCYT, (+6.7%) Molecular cytology and diagnostics company narrows Q3 net loss to $6.59 per share from a $7.49 per share loss in the year-ago period. Revenue climbs 74% year over year to $5.6 mln. No analyst estimates were available for comparison.

(-) GHDX, (-1.5%) Acquires rights to further develop and commercialize Almac Group's multi-gene test to predict benefit from DNA damage-based chemotherapy drugs for breast cancer in exchange for $9-mln upfront payment and future milestone, royalty payments.



The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.

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This article appears in: Investing , Commodities

Referenced Stocks: ACT , MACK

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