Synta to Cut 90 Jobs After Skin Cancer Trial Halted

The trial's suspension could put in jeopard Synta's $1 billion deal with GlaxoSmithKline, according to a report.
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A Synta Pharmaceuticals (SNTA) announced Friday it was cutting 90 jobs after it halted a phase III study of its enterprising skin cancer drug elesclomol.

In a press release Friday, Synta said the job cuts will allow it function without the need for further capital for about two more years. "Workforce reductions have been made across the organization while maintaining strength in core capabilities of discovery and development to support the goals of new partnerships and achieving clinical proof of concept by 2010, without the need for further capital." the company said.

"This restructuring is unfortunately a necessity in light of the results of our Phase 3 clinical trial of elesclomol in metastatic melanoma," said Safi Bahcall, Synta's president and CEO, in the statement.

Synta halted the study of melanoma drug candidate elesclomol -- for which it had partnered with

GlaxoSmithKline

(GSK) - Get Report

-- on Feb. 26 because more patients than expected had died while taking it.

As

The Boston Business Journal

points out, the trial's failure may put in jeopardy Synta's $1 billion deal with Glaxo, the bulk of which hinges on the elesclomol study continuing.

Synta discontinued the SYMETRY trial studying elesclomol in patients with stage 4 metastatic melanoma after more patients died in the group taking it in combination with another drug, paclitaxel, than in a group taking paclitaxel alone. Synta also suspended trials of the drug in separate indications pending further analysis of the SYMETRY data.

"Our first concern is for the safety of patients, and therefore we acted promptly to halt the SYMMETRY trial once it was evident that there were serious safety concerns," said Eric Jacobson, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, in a press release dated Feb. 26.

On Wednesday, Synta announced it had postponed its year-end earnings report and conference call to hash out numbers related to the elesclomol trials' cessation.