Threshold Pharmaceuticals Inc. has earned a $20 million milestone payment from Merck KGaA for its results from a clinical trial related to pancreatic cancer.
Threshold's stock gained 36 cents, or 5.7 percent, to $6.71 in premarket trading on Wednesday.
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth most-common cause of cancer death in the U.S. and internationally. The disease is often not discovered until it is too advanced to be removed surgically, and only 5 percent of patients live five years or more after diagnosis.
The trial evaluated the efficacy and safety of two doses of experimental drug TH-302 in combination with chemotherapy drug gemcitabine compared to gemcitabine alone in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer.
Threshold said that the trial showed a significant progression-free survival benefit in its 214 patients. Progression-free survival is the time from the start of treatment until a patient's cancer begins advancing again or the patient dies.
Threshold is studying TH-302 as a treatment for soft tissue sarcoma, solid tumors, leukemia, and several other cancers. Last month the company said that the Food and Drug Administration is granting orphan drug incentives to TH-302 as a treatment for soft tissue sarcoma, a rare cancer that affects connective tissue.
The FDA grants orphan drug status to drugs that treat illnesses that affect fewer than 200,000 people in the U.S. The FDA's decision means Threshold will get tax benefits and other benefits for developing TH-302 as a treatment for that disease.
If the drug is approved, it will have up to seven years of marketing exclusivity. European Union regulators granted orphan drug status to TH-302 in early March, giving the drug up to 10 years of exclusivity in that market.