Dendreon beaten down again on so-so Provenge sales update

Dendreon ($DNDN) has taken a fresh beating at the hands of investors after the Seattle-based biotech firm announced its third-quarter sales of prostate cancer vaccine Provenge and an unimpressive revenue outlook for the balance of the year yesterday. Quickly dashed were any hopes that the beat-up biotech's management might have had of exciting Wall Street about a modest uptick in Provenge sales last month.

November sales of Provenge are expected to slow down with the Thanksgiving holiday cutting in on business activities, Reuters reported. Not only does the drug carry a hefty $93,000 cost of treatment, Dendreon's own costs to are crippling the company's margins and raising concerns among investors about the company's prospects of becoming profitable. The firm's quarterly losses widened to $147.1 million compared with $79.3 million a year ago, Bloomberg reported, while revenue jumped from from $20.2 million to $64.3 million in the recent quarter.

Dendreon shares have tanked today, falling 34% as of 10:35 am ET this morning.

The biotech has done little else other than disappoint since August when it dropped sales forecasts based on doctors' slow prescribing of Provenge and a sticky reimbursement situation. Seeking ways make up for revenue shortfalls, the company hacked off 25% of its payroll in September, trimming some of its manufacturing manpower that wasn't as needed as it was once expected to be.

Provenge gets props for being the first FDA approved cancer drug that tricks the immune system into attacking tumor cells. However, reality has rained on the scientific parade. Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) has been off to a strong start with its oral drug Zytiga that treats prostate cancer and offers some comparable benefits to patients. And there's potential future competition from experimental drugs such as Exelixis' ($EXEL) carbozantinib and Medivation's ($MDVN) MDV3100, which impressed today with fresh Phase III data showing a survival advantage over Zytiga.

"I don't think anyone really knows where [Provenge] is heading," Cowen analyst Eric Schmidt said, as quoted by Reuters, adding that the company's upbeat comments sounded like "hope and not confidence."

- here's the company's earnings release
- read Bloomberg's coverage
- check out the article from Reuters
- and see what TheStreet wrote