Cell Genesys' cancer vax setback depresses field

Back in 2000, shares of Cell Genesys traded at more than $50 a share. Yesterday, the stock closed under $1 after plummeting more than 70 percent after its prostate cancer vaccine trial was halted due to a disturbing trend in the number of deaths recorded in the study. Researchers said that 67 patients in the group receiving GVAX and Taxotere had died compare to 47 deaths in the control arm of the study.

Cell Genesys' hopes now are focused on a separate Phase III trial that has not raised the same safety concerns. And analysts note that a success in that trial--which provides GVAX alone--could still warrant an approval. In the meantime, shares of Dendreon also traded lower as investors considered the possible implications for all the developers advancing cancer vaccines.

"In our view, the failure of another purported cancer vaccine calls into question the therapeutic approach of battling cancer via an activated immune response, which is also the mechanism of Dendreon's (drug) Provenge," said Lazard Capital Markets analyst Joel Sendek in a research note.

- check out the Cell Genesys release
- read the story from the San Francisco Chronicle