- Last week, a rumor emerged that a patient had died as a result of receiving Kite Pharma's investigational KTE-C19, a CAR-T therapy which is being studied for treatment of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, during a phase I/II clinical trial.
- But in a call with analysts, Kite CEO Arie Belldegrun reassured investors that negative rumors about an early-stage KTE-C19 trial were false.
- The stock tanked on the rumors, but rose 6% once Belldegrun reassured investors.
Kite Pharma is recogized as one of the forerunners in the CAR-T drug-development arena. One of Kite's lead candidates, KTE-C19, is being studied for treatment of B-cell lymphomas and leukemias based on targeting the antigen CD 19.
But while there is a great deal of excitment around CAR-T therapies, which are designed to harness the power of an individual patient's immune system in order to induce a positive outcome, there is a serious side effect associated with this class of drugs—cytokine release syndrome.
Cytokine release syndrome is a sudden reaction that is sometimes fatal. Belldegrun assured investors that the patient who died did not perish from this adverse reaction, but rather died early in the trial from a non-drug related cause. Moreover, he spoke optimistically about the trial results to date, claiming that the therapy had been "melting away tumors" (those comments inspired some condemnation from journalists like Forbes' Matt Herper, who felt that Belldegrun had revealed too much about the trial).