Juno Situation Has Little Impact on Kite Pharma's (KITE) Ongoing ZUMA1 Pivotal Trial - Stifel
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Stifel analyst Thomas Shrader weighed in on Kite Pharma (NASDAQ: KITE) after rival Juno Therapeutics has again placed the ROCKET trial on clinical hold following patient deaths due to cerebral edema. The firm reiterated a Buy rating and price target of $74 on KITE, saying this reinforces Kite's R&D focus. They believe this situation has little impact on the ongoing ZUMA1 pivotal trial.
Shrader commented, "The Juno conference call focused on the likely role of killing too many tumor cells too fast in an attempt to cure as many patients as possible. Juno management commented that this killing speed limit is most obvious for adult ALL patients (those in ROCKET), less obvious in pediatric ALL and CLL and even less of a problem in aggressive NHL (DLBCL, a more solid and fibrous tumor where cell killing is likely the slowest). For Kite, we believe this situation has little impact on the ongoing ZUMA1 pivotal trial in which 101 patients have received cells with a single death considered treatment related (hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis – a systemic immune reaction likely initiating in the liver). Juno had initially believed these deaths were related to the use of FLU in the conditioning regimen but a change in protocol to remove FLU did not resolve this issue. All in all, we believe this situation reinforces what was already fairly clear: CAR-T cells produce remarkable responses in desperate patients likely reflecting “cure”, but the optimal use of these therapies is still being worked out."
Shares of Kite Pharma closed at $51.69 yesterday.
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