Cancer vaccine developers bask in Provenge limelight

Now that Dendreon has completed its victory lap following Thursday's high-profile approval for Provenge, the spotlight has inevitably shifted to the other cancer vaccines in the pipeline.

"It sets the stage, or at least facilitates, the approval of other cancer vaccines," Michael Becker, chief executive of MD Becker Partners, tells Dow Jones about the Provenge action. Becker compares the Provenge approval to Rituxan's arrival in 1997, which heralded the potential of monoclonal antibodies.

That's all good for the likes of Celldex--which is partnered with Pfizer--and GlaxoSmithKline, which hope to follow in Dendreon's path with personalized cancer vaccines of their own. Geron has a leukemia vaccine in a mid-stage trial. And Bristol-Myers Squibb, Vical and Biovest all win some added attention for their work in the field.

"We are next in line," insisted Oncothyreon CEO Robert Kirkman, who is looking for pivotal data on Stimuvax before the end of 2011--if the FDA lifts a clinical hold in time. And Oxford CEO John Dawson tells Bloomberg the new attention could prompt a partner to step up for TroVax.

Dendreon, of course, had to survive a huge setback when the FDA demanded a new Phase III trial three years ago. And the tough odds that face any new therapy in the clinic still apply. Noting the rise of all the "happy talk" surrounding the wave of cancer vaccines in the clinic, Adam Feuerstein at TheStreet this morning tweeted: "Reality check: Most will blow up."

- here's the story from Dow Jones (sub. req.)
- here's Bloomberg's piece