Shares in Delcath Systems (DCTH) nearly doubled Wednesday after the FDA announced that it had granted orphan status to melphalan for treatment of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (primary liver cancer, also known as HCC). The stock leapt as much as 113 percent on heavy trading before settling into gains of around 90 percent as the day wore on.
Delcath Pops on Good News, Regains Some Lost Ground
Delcath, a specialty pharmaceutical and medical device company, was in the midst of a rough year, down almost 75 percent since the start of 2013. The company’s stock plunged in early May on news that an FDA Advisory panel had unanimously voted against recommending Delcath’s Melblez kit therapy for treatment of hepatic-dominant metastatic ocular melanoma. The 16-0 vote came after reviewers noted that "substantial and severe toxicity" had been identified and seven of the 122 patients in the trial treated by the drug-combo had died as a result of treatment.
Today’s announcement is some much-needed good news for owners of Delcath. Orphan status, which indicates that one of the drugs the company has in development can be used to treat a rare disease, comes with a number of advantages, including tax breaks on research and waived fees. The FDA threshold for orphan drug status is 200,000 or fewer patients in the United States, and there currently only about 26,000 people suffering from primary liver cancer.
Delcath Still Not Out of the Woods
While Delcath’s ChemoStat treatment for HCC has just received certain benefits, it still needs final approval from the FDA. And this is anything but certain, given that just earlier this month the FDA didn’t grant approval for the drug. The FDA’s September 12th letter stated that Delcath needed to perform another "well-controlled randomized trial(s) to establish the safety and efficacy of Melblez Kit using overall survival as the primary efficacy outcome measure" which "demonstrates that the clinical benefits of Melblez Kit outweigh its risks."
However, Delcath’s path to the desired ultimate outcome is smoothed somewhat with the granting of orphan status.