Deciphera to seek OK for gastrointestinal cancer drug

Shares of Deciphera Pharmaceuticals surged Tuesday after the Waltham-based biotech reported it will seek approval next year of what it hopes will be its first drug on the market, a medicine to treat gastrointestinal cancer.

Deciphera stock closed up nearly 80 percent after the 16-year-old drug maker said its experimental medicine, ripretinib, met its primary goal in a late-stage clinical trial. The medicine is designed for people who have already tried three other drugs for treatment of gastrointestinal stromal tumors, or GIST.

The medicine helped patients live a median of six months without their cancer spreading, according to the company. In comparison, the median length of time for the cancer to spread in patients who took a placebo was one month.


“There is a dire unmet need for new therapies that can deliver effective disease control for patients with advanced GIST who have failed currently approved treatment options,” said Dr. Margaret von Mehren, an oncologist at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia who helped run the trial.

She said Deciphera’s drug targets a broad spectrum of genetic mutations that fuel such tumors and “can significantly improve progression-free survival in the most heavily pretreated patients.”

Based on the results, Deciphera executives said, the company plans to file a request with the Food and Drug Administration to approve the drug in the first quarter of 2020.

Deciphera has 112 employees, according to a recent filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, most of them in Waltham. The firm has a market value of about $1.4 billion.

Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at jsaltzman@globe.com