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Biotech Stock Mailbag: Poniard Predictions

BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Let's open the Biotech Stock Mailbag, beginning with an email from Leslie O. about a very important event looming for Poniard Pharmaceuticals (PARD).

Writes Leslie, "Adam, what's your prediction for results from Poniard's phase III study of picoplatin in small cell lung cancer?"

I have no edge on this one, so I don't have a prediction for you. Needless to say, this is a huge event for Poniard. A successful study lands the company a partnership and a nice bump in the stock price. I'll guess in the $12-plus range. A negative outcome get reported, and Poniard shares will plummet towards cash levels of around $1. The stock was trading Thursday at around $7.

Poniard has guided to data before the end of November.

Picoplatin is a next-generation platinum chemotherapy drug designed to overcome resistance to prior platinum therapy. The drug may also cause less nerve-related toxicity.

The phase III study, dubbed "SPEAR," compares treatment with picoplatin against best supportive care (BSC) in second-line small cell lung cancer (SCLC) patients. These are patients with advanced, progressive disease after treatment with a front-line platinum agent. The primary endpoint of the study is overall survival.

The bull story: A published single-arm phase II study of picoplatin in SCLC patients demonstrated a median overall survival of 27 weeks. Best supportive care (BSC) in this patient population is believed to yield a median survival of around 14 weeks (again, from prior published studies.)

Poniard designed the SPEAR study conservatively so that picoplatin patients need only reach a 19-week median survival for the study to be a success, based on the assumption of a 14-week median survival for patients treated with BSC. Patients in the BSC arm are also prohibited from being treated with other chemotherapies in the second line, which could, in theory, hurt picoplatin's chances of showing a significant survival benefit.

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