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Pipeline updates are highly awaited events in the pharma/biotech sector as they play an important role in deciding whether or not to invest in a particular company. These updates provide information on experimental drugs and at times give an insight into the commercial potential of the candidate once it is successfully developed and commercialized.

Earlier this week, ARIAD Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (ARIA - Snapshot Report) announced that it has initiated a phase II pivotal study that will evaluate the safety and efficacy of AP26113 in locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in patients who had previously been treated with Pfizer’s (PFE - Analyst Report) Xalkori (crizotinib).

ARIAD said that patients who test positive for the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK+) oncogene will be studied in the ALTA (ALK in Lung Cancer Trial of AP26113) trial.

The study will focus on patients who suffer from active brain metastases.

According to the American Cancer Society, currently nearly 3%−5% of NSCLC patients in the U.S. are ALK+. The American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 224,000 people in the U.S. will be newly diagnosed with lung cancer in 2014.

Currently approved NSCLC treatments include Roche (RHHBY - Analyst Report)/Astellas Pharma’s (ALPMY) Tarceva, Boehringer Ingelheim’s Gilotrif and Xalkori.

Meanwhile, ARIAD expects to complete patient enrolment for the ALTA study in the third quarter of 2015. The first data from the study should be out in 2015. ARIAD expects to conduct final data analysis after patients complete six months of treatment with AP26113.

ARIAD carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). A better-ranked stock in the health care sector is Shire plc (SHPG - Analyst Report) with a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

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