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Dendreon's Provenge: A Behind-the-Scenes Look

Updated from 11:59 a.m. EDT

CHICAGO -- After a long buildup, Dendreon (DNDN) finally revealed its Provenge prostate cancer survival data Tuesday. Here are some highlights from the dramatic presentation:

Dendreon threw a celebratory cocktail party Tuesday night at a Chicago hotel just off the Miracle Mile. CEO Mitch Gold was beaming as he slapped backs, shook hands and hugged employees, investors and supporters. Gold has a family history with cancer, so Tuesday had extra special meaning for him personally.

What will Provenge cost and how much of the drug can Dendreon sell? Those are two related questions, obviously, neither of which have concrete answers yet. Dendreon executives are loath to answer either directly, mainly because the company's focus now is on filing Provenge with the FDA and getting the drug approved.

Wall Street hasn't come up with a consensus price for Provenge, but the estimate you hear most often is the range of $60,000 to $80,000 for a course of treatment. That puts Provenge in league with pricing for other biologic cancer drugs like Genentech's Avastin or Eli Lilly's (LLY - Get Report) and Bristol-Myers Squibb's (BMY - Get Report) Erbitux. It also makes Provenge a target for those who question and criticize the high cost of cancer drugs, but that's a debate for another day.

As for peak sales of Provenge, it's not hard to get to $2 billion or more with pricing in the $60,000 to $80,000 range. In fact, it's quite easy. My own Provenge revenue model forecast peak U.S. sales of $1 billion based on what seems now to be a ridiculously low $30,000 annual price tag.

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