Halozyme Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ:HALO) announced the first patient has received its investigational new drug, PEGPH20 in combination with Merck’s KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) in a clinical trial to determine the maximum tolerated dose of PEGPH20 and antitumor activity of the combined therapies.

The Halozyme sponsored Phase 1b study is being conducted at a number of leading sites in the U.S., and is evaluating patients with advanced non-small cell lung and gastric cancers.

Following an initial dose escalation portion to determine the maximum tolerated dose of PEGPH20 in combination with KEYTRUDA, the study will be expanded to determine antitumor activity including overall response rate, duration of response and progression-free survival in patients with high levels of hyaluronan (HA). HA is a glycosaminoglycan, or chain of natural sugars in the body that can accumulate around cancer cells creating high pressure in a tumor, constricting blood flow and thereby reducing access of chemotherapy and immunotherapeutic agents, like KEYTRUDA. PEGPH20 degrades HA, reducing tumor pressure and increasing blood flow to treat the tumor.

During the expansion portion, the study seeks to enroll approximately 50 patients with high HA tumors who have relapsed or refractory stage IIIB/IV non-small cell lung cancer treated with at least one platinum-based regimen, or who have recurrent locally advanced/metastatic gastric adenocarcinoma who are also PDL-1 positive and have failed at least one chemotherapy regimen.

“Our goal is to make a difference in the lives of patients, and that starts by studying the safety, tolerability and efficacy of PEGPH20 in a broad range of tumor types and in combination with a broad range of therapeutic agents,” said Dr. Helen Torley, president and CEO of Halozyme. “With this study, we see an opportunity to expand the potential benefits of immunotherapy through the novel combination of KEYTRUDA and PEGPH20, targeting two of the most difficult to treat cancers.” (Original Source)

Shares of Halozyme Therapeutics closed yesterday at $17.23. HALO has a 1-year high of $25.25 and a 1-year low of $7.51. The stock’s 50-day moving average is $15.24 and its 200-day moving average is $18.38.

On the ratings front, Halozyme has been the subject of a number of recent research reports. In a report issued on September 15, Piper Jaffray analyst Charles Duncan reiterated a Buy rating on HALO, with a price target of $24, which implies an upside of 39.3% from current levels. Separately, on August 11, JMP’s Jason Butler maintained a Buy rating on the stock and has a price target of $22.

According to TipRanks.com, which ranks over 7,500 financial analysts and bloggers to gauge the performance of their past recommendations, Charles Duncan and Jason Butler have a total average return of 13.4% and 51.5% respectively. Duncan has a success rate of 52.1% and is ranked #362 out of 3824 analysts, while Butler has a success rate of 54.5% and is ranked #111.

Halozyme Therapeutics Inc is a biopharmaceutical company. It is engaged in research on human enzymes that alter the extracellular matrix and tumor environment.