March 11 (Reuters) - Oxigene Inc said on Tuesday that its experimental drug Zybrestat combined with Roche's big selling cancer drug Avastin significantly slowed progression of recurrent ovarian cancer better than Avastin alone in a midstage clinical trial.
Shares of tiny Oxigene, which had been halted prior to announcement of the trial results, more than doubled in extended trading.
The drugs, which use different mechanisms to deprive tumors of blood supply and oxygen needed to grow, met the primary goal of the study by demonstrating a statistically significant increase in progression-free survival (PFS), or the time it takes before the cancer begins to worsen.
Details of the magnitude of PFS in the 107-patient Phase II study were expected to be disclosed at a future medical meeting, and patients will be followed to see if the drug combination leads to an overall survival benefit, the company said.
"This promising combination warrants further evaluation particularly given the significant need for new treatment options in relapsed ovarian cancer," Dr. Bradley Monk, lead investigator of the study, said in a statement.
The Gynecologic Oncology Group conducted the trial under sponsorship of the Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program of the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
Avastin, a multibillion-dollar drug, is used against several kinds of cancer, including colon, lung, kidney and brain cancers. It is not approved to treat ovarian cancer in the United States, but is in other countries.
"Zybrestat is the first vascular disrupting agent to show a statistically significant progression-free survival benefit, and we are evaluating next steps to advance this combination to patients in need," Oxigene Chief Executive Peter Langecker said in a statement.
Patients taking Zybrestat had a higher incidence of high blood pressure than those who received Avastin alone, the company said. All of those patients were treated with antihypertensive medicine.
Oxigene shares jumped to $5.30 in after hours trading from a Nasdaq close at $2.42. (Reporting by Bill Berkrot; Editing by David Gregorio)