Pharmas Market with Mike Huckman

Dendreon In Vegas, Lance Armstrong And Cancer Studies

I realize it's become a bit of a tired tagline, but through the magic of live webcasts what happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas. This morning Dendreonwas first at bat at the Bank of America Healthcare Conference in Sin City.

Since the company didn't hold an earnings conference call the other day--given its proximity to the BofA investment conference and another one next week (Rodman & Renshaw's annual soiree at the much more desirable gambling mecca of Monte of these years I'm gonna finagle a way to cover that one)--I decided to listen in to the presentation by CEO DR. Mitchell Gold.

The clock is ticking on the highly anticipated interim test results for the biotech company's prostate cancer treatment Provenge. Dr. Gold reiterated that the data should be available sometime in the second half of this year.

At the end of the brief q. and a. session one attendee pressed Dr. Gold about whether it'll be early or late in the second half, but the good doctor wasn't gonna go there. "It's a second-half event," Dr. Gold said. "We haven't gotten any more granular than that."

Coincidentally, testicular cancer survivor and patient advocateLance Armstrong wrote an op-ed piece in today's Wall Street Journal. In the article, timed to coincide with "an annual awareness-raising event named for Armstrong's organization--the champion cyclist calls it "unacceptable" that federal government cancer research funding has remained flat in recent years." In a line that will resonate with Dendreonians, Armstrong writes: "Our regulatory system should not hinder the fight against cancer...."

And he says: "This nation needs a renewed, comprehensive approach to the war on cancer."

All of this attention to cancer occurs just a couple days before the American Society of Clinical Oncology lifts the embargo on the majority of the data to be presented at this year's ASCO conference at the end of May/beginning of June. To try to avoid some of the leaks and questionable trading that has occurred in some biotech stocks ahead of the Super Bowl/Oscars of biotech, ASCO is going to throw most of the study results (we're talkin' about 5,000 studies) at all at once at 9 pm ET this Thursday, May 15th.

It's still gonna hold back the release of the so-called latebreakers--the potentially headline-grabbing studies--until the conference itself. In year's past ASCO has sent out its conference bible to the thousands of its doctor members and to certain reporters a few weeks before the conference. The group admonished everyone from sharing the info ahead of the embargoes lifting at the actual event, but sometimes you'd see movement in stocks shortly after the books went out and eyebrows were raised.

Meantime, Provenge proponents who are upset about the way the Food and Drug Administration has handled things are planning another protest. The rally is scheduledfor the first day of ASCO in several cities including Chicago, right outside McCormick Place where tens of thousands of cancer docs, nurses, caregivers, scientists, researchers, reporters (including this one) and, of course, Wall Street analysts will be gathered.

Lance Armstrong kind of points out the obvious in today's WSJ: "Cancer affects every person in this country."

Two years ago my mom died of metastatic kidney cancer. I also lost my grandmother and uncle to the disease. And my dear cousin is fighting ovarian cancer as I write.

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