Shares in Antisoma were given a small lift despite a dramatic increase in loss for the first half of the year, as investors presumably chose to focus on the promise of its two late-stage candidates instead.

The group saw its loss after tax more than triple to £18.3 million for the six months to December 31, 2009, compared to £5.0 million for the year-earlier period, as the books showed zero revenues but a 6.5% increase in operating costs to £21.3 million.

However, the company closed the reporting period with £49.6 million cash in its back pocket and said it expects recognise £19.7 million in the second half of the year from the sale of US rights to oral fludarabine to sanofi-aventis, which should help to even up the balance sheet.

Furthermore, Antisoma remains confident that it is just a relatively short hop away from enjoying a continuous stream of income from its flagship cancer drugs ASA404 and AS1413, both of which are well into pivotal Phase III trials.

The group confirmed that Swiss drug major Novartis, which is funding all developmental work on ASA404, plans to file marketing authorisations for the drug as a first-line treatment alongside chemotherapy for non-small cell lung cancer in 2011, if data from the key registration trial - expected mid next year - are positive.

In addition, AS1413 is currently in a Phase III trial comparing a combination of the drug plus cytarabine to the existing treatment standard for secondary acute myeloid leukaemia - daunorubicin plus cytarabine. More than half of the targeted 450 patients are now enrolled in the trial, and the firm said it expects results towards the end of this year or early 2011.

“Success with either drug will enable us to make a rapid transition into a company directly involved in product commercialisation and capable of generating recurring revenues based on product sales,” noted chief executive Glyn Edwards.

On the down side, Antisoma said it will no longer pursue development of AS1411 in renal cancer despite Phase II evidence of potential in this indication, “because of the now highly competitive nature of the renal cancer market”, and the firm has also killed off AS1402 in breast cancer, after mid-stage data “indicated that the drug would be unlikely to offer a significant benefit to patients”.