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Nektar Therapeutics (NKTR - Analyst Report) recently presented encouraging preclinical data on NKTR-214 at the 2013 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). Nektar is developing NKTR-214 (targets the IL-2 receptor complex) as a potential treatment for multiple forms of cancer.

The preclinical data revealed that NKTR-214 was more effective and exhibited greater tolerability compared to Novartis (NVS - Analyst Report)/Prometheus Laboratories’ Proleukin (aldesleukin). The company mentioned in its press release that NKTR-214 was more effective compared to Proleukin in spite of being dosed with 20-fold less in total cytokine or being dosed only once every fourteen days. NKTR-214 is also under development in other pre-clinical toxicological and efficacy studies.

Nektar also presented a series of target-specific biomarkers that were being developed in a phase III study on its etirinotecan pegol for the treatment of breast cancer at the ASCO annual meeting. The randomized, open-label, international BEACON (BrEAst Cancer Outcomes with NKTR-102) phase III study is evaluating etirinotecan pegol in patients who have received an anthracycline, a taxane and capecitabine (ATC) in comparison to a comparator arm which consists of an active single agent treatment of physician's choice.

Nektar stated in its press release that multiple assays for target-specific pharmacodynamic biomarkers for etirinotecan pegol have been established. They are being measured under the BEACON study. These biomarkers were identified from Circulating Tumor Cell (CTC) samples, which were collected before patient treatment, during treatment (at regular intervals) and also at the end of treatment.

The primary objective of the BEACON study is overall survival. The study will also evaluate progression-free survival and objective tumor response rates of etirinotecan pegol.

Nektar, a biopharmaceutical company, presently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Other biopharma stocks such as Jazz Pharmaceuticals Public Limited Company (JAZZ - Analyst Report) and Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc. (CBST - Analyst Report) currently look better positioned. While Jazz Pharma carries a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), Cubist Pharma carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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