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Biotech Stock Mailbag: Cytori Therapeutics

Stocks in this article: CYTX BPAX VRTX MRK YMI INCY

Gutowski added, "While I think this Cytori's Celution has potential applications and would be willing to try this personally in a more scientific way, as of now, the satisfaction graphs and MRI images are smoke and mirrors to hide the lack of comparative data."

One more gripe and another red flag:

  • Cytori claims this U.K. study is independent, but the lead investigator, Dr. Pud Bhaskar of U.K.'s University Hospital of North Tees, is also scheduled to promote the use of the Celution System at a Cytori-sponsored educational program on Oct. 21. Cytori told me that Bhaskar isn't being paid for his participation at the "Cytori Exchange" seminar, but doesn't his speaking on behalf of Cytori and its products at a Cytori event raise legitimate questions about his independence? I think so.
  • Cytori will need to raise more cash soon and has a $100 million shelf registered and ready. Cytori ended the first quarter with net cash of around $23 million ($43 million cash minus $20 million in debt). The company started repaying its debt in monthly installments beginning April 1, which combined with the current burn rate, means Cytori is likely to end the year with only about $10 million.
  • Dean E. emails, "Greetings, Mr. Feuerstein! I am writing you to inquire about your opinion on the prospects for YM Biosciences (YMI), both specific to the upcoming ASCO meeting, and also for the future of the company in general."

    The buzz over YM Biosciences is all about the company's promising JAK 1/2 inhibitor CYT387 in clinical development for myelofibrosis, a cancer in which abnormal bone marrow stem cells produce scar tissue that replaces healthy marrow. Patients with myelofibrosis suffer from anemia and enlarged spleens.

    The big question: Is CYT387 better than rival Incyte's (INCY) JAK 1/2 inhibitor ruxolitinib, also being developed for myelofibrosis?

    The short answer is we don't know yet, but both companies will be presenting a bunch of data on their respective drugs at the ASCO annual meeting, so stay tuned.

    The ASCO abstract released Wednesday night related to CYT387's ongoing phase I study didn't cover much new ground but rehashed the impressive anemia response rate of 58% in transfusion-dependent patients that was presented in April. The potential for a superior anemia response is why some people consider CYT387 to be a better drug than Incyte's ruxolitinib, even though the latter is much further ahead.

    At ASCO, researchers are expected to present more current data from an ongoing, multi-center phase II study of CYT387. If these new data confirm what we've already seen, CYT387's star should rise in the eyes of investors.

    Incyte will also be presenting new ruxolitinib data at ASCO, mainly from the so-called COMFORT-II phase III study. Wednesday's ASCO abstract release only contained data from the older COMFORT-I phase III study.

    Weighing the relative pros and cons of CYT387 and ruxolitinib will be one of the bigger stories at this year's ASCO meeting.

    Thomas C. asks, "Good day Adam, looking for your expertise, is Cyclacel Pharmaceuticals' (CYCC) recent move for real, or just another false start?"

    Neither. The move higher since the middle of April is more likely attributable to common trading pattern often seen in cancer stocks ahead of the ASCO annual meeting. Traders like to buy stocks on the early release of the ASCO research abstracts and sell them when the ASCO poster is presented.

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