Shares of Jounce Therapeutics (JNCE) were crashing 20.2% lower as of 11:42 a.m. EST on Monday. The big drop came after the company announced that it would not continue patient enrollment in the Emerge phase 2 trial evaluating vopratelimab (vopra) in combination with Bristol Myers Squibb's Yervoy in treating non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
Jounce stated that early analysis of the data from the Emerge phase 2 study indicated that "the trial will not meet pre-specified interim criteria for continuation of enrollment." As a result, the biotech said that it wouldn't expand enrollment in the Emerge clinical trial as originally planned.
This news hit the biotech stock especially hard because vopra is Jounce's lead pipeline candidate. Jounce doesn't have an approved product on the market yet.
Jounce CEO Richard Murray acknowledged in a public statement, "The PD-(L)1 experienced or resistant population continues to prove difficult to treat. To bring necessary benefit to these patients it is becoming clearer that novel approaches beyond T cells may be needed as part of the solution." However, Murray noted that Jounce's pipeline includes other programs that focus on these novel approaches. He singled out JTX-8064, which uses macrophages (white blood cells that can "eat" cancer cells) instead of T cells, as an especially promising candidate.
The company hasn't thrown in the towel on vopra despite the latest setback. Jounce began enrollment last month in the Select phase 2 study evaluating vopra in combination with its own PD-1 inhibitor, JTX-4014. The biotech expects to report preliminary efficacy data from this study next year.