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Endocyte surges on news for cancer drug

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NEW YORK (AP) — Shares of Endocyte nearly doubled in value Friday after European Union regulators said the company's drug Vynfinit should be approved as a treatment for ovarian cancer, and Endocyte said the drug helped slow the progression of lung cancer in a midstage trial.

The stock reached an all-time high of $33.70, and closed up $13.53, or 92 percent, at $28.17.

Endocyte and its partner Merck said a panel of European Union regulatory advisers recommended that Vynfinit be approved as a treatment for recurrent ovarian cancer in adult women whose disease isn't responding to platinum-based chemotherapy. The panel's recommendation also covers two imaging agents that are intended to help identify patients who could be helped by Vynfinit.

Vynfinit, or vintafolide, is designed to target a receptor that appears on cancer cells but doesn't exist on most other cells. The drug is intended to be used with the chemotherapy treatment doxorubicin.

EU regulators should make a final decision on the drug within three months, said Cowen and Co. analyst Simos Simeonidis. He expects them to approve Vynfinit and said the drug should be launched shortly thereafter. He rates Endocyte shares "Outperform."

The companies also said patients with lung cancer lived longer or saw a slower progression of their disease if they were treated with Vynfinit and doxorubicin. The midstage trial compared those drugs to standard treatment in 199 patients with non-small cell lung cancer.

This would be the first approved drug for Endocyte Inc., based in West Lafayette, Ind. Merck and Endocyte announced a partnership in April 2012. Merck paid Endocyte $120 million upfront, and Endocyte stands to receive more than $1 billion if Vynfinit is successfully developed as an approved treatment for multiple types of cancer.

Shares of Merck & Co. lost 93 cents to finish at $54.66.

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