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
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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.