Analysts are getting excited over data released on Roche's dalcetrapib, a drug which raises 'good' cholesterol and cuts the 'bad' type.

Preliminary data has been released from a 130-patient mid-stage trial, Dal-PLAQUE, which shows dalcetrapib succeeded in raising high-density lipoprotein (good) cholesterol. In addition, the drug was well tolerated and did not increase plaque-related artery inflammation. More details on the study, and from a larger, 470-patient, Phase II trial - Dal-VESSEL - will be presented at the eagerly-anticipated European Society of Cardiology meeting in Paris this coming weekend.

Dalcetrapib is a cholesterylester transfer protein (CETP) inhibitor but this class of drugs has suffered setbacks in the past. At the end of 2006, Pfizer terminated its CETP inhibitor torcetrapib in Phase III due to safety concerns.

Tim Race of Deutsche Bank has issued a research note saying that dalcetrapib is "the key drug in Roche's pipeline with the potential to be transformational". He argues that on their own, the Dal-PLAQUE data are not particularly significant, given that the Swiss drugmaker announced the trial's success in April, but observers will be focusing on all available dalcetrapib data presented in Paris.

It is still early days for the drug and most experts are waiting until Roche presents results from a 15,800-patient trial next year to make their minds up over CETP inhibitors. Merck & Co is also developing a CETP inhibitor, anacetrapib, which impressed in Phase III data presented at the end of last year.