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Millennium's Future Remains Cloudy

But even further penetration for Velcade in multiple myeloma is not likely to get investors very excited in the near term, some analysts say. Second-line Velcade use could cannabilize use in later-stage patients, while approval for first-line multiple myeloma is a bit far down the road. Instead, the company has to make Velcade work in additional (and bigger) cancer markets. The best opportunities right now appear to be in a couple of different forms of lymphoma, including mantle cell lymphoma and possibly non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, as well as non-small cell lung cancer.

Millennium is expected to make a so-called "go, no go" decision on a phase III Velcade non-small cell-lung cancer study in January, with an announcement likely at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, Fanucci says. Interim data from a phase II non-Hodgkin's lymphoma study of Velcade in combination with Genentech (DNA) and Biogen Idec's (BIIB) Rituxan will be presented at the closely watched American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in May.

Drug pipelines get biotech investors excited, but Millennium's lineup is a bit too dependent on experimental drugs still in the early stages of clinical testing. One exception might be MLN2704, a monoclonal antibody combined with a chemotherapy drug that targets a specific antigen found on prostate cancer cells. Data from a phase I/II study of MLN2704 is expected to be released at a prostate cancer meeting in February. Fanucci says the company considers expansion of Velcade and Integrillin's approved treatment options as part of its late-stage drug pipeline. However, Wall Street doesn't look at it the same way.

Some analysts and investors believe Millennium could help itself by licensing new late-stage drug candidates or by making another company acquisition. That's easier said than done. With Big Pharma in the doldrums, competition for potential growth-revving product candidates has become more intense, and potential sellers are raising prices.

Adam Feuerstein writes regularly for RealMoney.com. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in TheStreet.com. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. He invites you to send your feedback to adam.feuerstein@thestreet.com.
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