Sector Update: Small Gains for Healthcare Stocks; DARA BioSciences Cancer Treatment Wins Orphan Drug Designation

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Healthcare stocks were slightly higher Monday with the NYSE Healthcare Sector Index climbing 0.1% and shares of healthcare companies in the S&P 500 also rising 0.1% as a group.

In company news, DARA BioSciences ( DARA ) shares jumped as much as 36% Monday after U.S. authorities designated the company's KRN5500 experimental compound with Orphan Drug status for the treatment of multiple myeloma.

The favorable decision by the Food and Drug Administration follows a 2012 academic study demonstrating the anti-myeloma effects of the spicamycin derivative impairing both blood-cancer cells and osteoclasts. The agency earlier this year also granted Orphan Drug status to KRN5500 to reduce pain in cancer patients from their chemotherapy treatments that doesn't respond to traditional pain-killers.

Orphan Drug Designation provides pharmaceutical companies with seven years of market exclusivity as well as other tax credits, fee waviers and access to federal grants. The FDA also put KRN5500 - now in Phase II testing at DARA - on its Fast Tract program in 2011.

DARA shares were up more than 21% in recent trade at $1.36 apiece, earlier advancing to a session high of $1.52 a share. The stock has a 52-week range of $1.02 to $4.40 a share, sliding more than 60% over that span, including a 25% one-day slump late last month after the company disclosed plans for an $12.5 million offering of convertible stock.

In other sector news,

(+) BLUE, (+33.9%) Reports positive results for its LentiGlobin experimental gene therapy, saying two patients with the beta-thalassemia blood disorder were able to stop blood transfusions after one LentiGlobin treatment.

(-) KPTI, (-15.1%) FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine offers only conditional support for the company's Verdinexor drug candidate to treat canine lymphoma.

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

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