SAN FRANCISCO - Shares of EntreMed Inc. fell nearly 21 percent yesterday after results of the first human tests of its two anti-tumor drugs failed to ignite investors' enthusiasm.
The scientific presentations Sunday and yesterday at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's meeting here marked the first release of complete results from Phase I clinical trials for Endostatin and Angiostatin.
Investors reacted negatively, despite what the company and independent scientific investigators described as positive results.
Shares fell $3.95 to close at $15.30 on the Nasdaq stock market, down 70 percent from their 52-week high.
The stock tumbled after media coverage detailing Sunday's presentations on Endostatin and Angiostatin left investors unimpressed.
Yesterday, EntreMed executives worked hard to counter the impression that the two drugs yielded disappointing results.
The company issued a press release recapping presentations that showed the drugs were safe and yielded several examples of patients whose cancer stabilized, or even regressed, for a time while taking them.
The Food and Drug Administration's Phase I trials, the company pointed out, focus on testing the safety of a drug and aren't necessarily designed to reveal how well it works. The company said yesterday that it plans to move Angiostatin, Endostatin and Panzem, another anti-tumor drug, into Phase II FDA trials by the end of the year.
Neil Campbell, EntreMed's vice president for corporate development, was working his cell phone at the back of the cavernous Moscone Center, delivering that message to reporters, analysts and investors, while at the distant podium, scientists gave the last of the Endostatin presentations.
Little over an hour later at an EntreMed luncheon for investors and analysts, EntreMed Chief Executive Officer John Holaday held up the front page of USA Today, lamenting a headline that proclaimed, "Drugs that starve tumors prove disappointing."
Endostatin and Angiostatin, though not mentioned by name in the article, are two of the most publicized drugs in a new class of therapies that attack cancer by cutting off its blood supply.
The Angiogenesis Foundation, a nonprofit that tracks development of the drugs, says at least 50 of the drugs are being tested on humans.
Dr. Roy Herbst, an investigator who on Sunday presented results of the Phase I Endostatin trial at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, said he disagreed with the headline's characterization, saying: "I think clearly we had a successful Phase I trial."
M. D. Anderson will soon begin administering Endostatin to patients with a different method that appeared more efficient in animal testing - continuous infusion. Trials testing Endostatin in combination with other therapies may follow, Herbst said.
Analysts and investors who attended EntreMed's luncheon had mixed reactions yesterday, with a number of them declining to be quoted.
Maria Phillips. a Banc of America Securities analyst, saw the additional data presented at this week's scientific conference as providing indications that the drugs had some biological effect and stabilized patients' cancer.
But Alan Auerbach of First Security Van Kasper said investors made their feelings known in the market yesterday.
"I think the stock market is an efficient place and investors today gave you their view," he said. Still, Auerbach said, "It's interesting science and we'll continue to follow its development."