Cell Therapeutics

(CTIC) - Get Report

is selling off the remaining 50% stake in its cancer drug Zevalin for $18 million in a desperate bid to keep the company in operation.

The buyer of Zevalin's marketing rights is

Spectrum Pharmaceuticals

(SPPI) - Get Report

, which already owns the other half of the drug.

Cell Therapeutics sold Zevalin, used to treat non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, because the company was set to run out of cash at the end of the month, according to a recent filing with the

Securities and Exchange Commission

.

The Seattle-based drugmaker has been trying to raise new cash from institutional investors without success, so to keep the lights on the company was forced to sell its only marketed drug.

Cell Therapeutics acquired Zevalin from

Biogen Idec

(BIIB) - Get Report

in December 2007, a year in which sales for the drug totaled $16.8 million. When it acquired Zevalin, Cell Therapeutics forecast 2008 sales of $15 million. But from the beginning, the company was never able to meet its goal. Zevalin sales in 2008 reached just $11.4 million, according to the company.

The Zevalin sales shortfall, combined with higher overall operating expenses and a crushing debt load of about $124 million, kept Cell Therapeutics in a perpetual search for cash to keep the company afloat. The company has spent $1.2 billion since its founding in 1991.

In November, Cell Therapeutics sold the first 50% rights to Zevalin to Spectrum for $15 million.

Meanwhile, efforts to restructure the company's debt has ballooned its outstanding share count to about 300 million shares.

The sale of Zevalin will cut Cell Therapeutics' expenses by $15 million a year, the company said Friday, but it is still burning $13.5 million a quarter, according to a recent SEC filing.

The top five executives at Cell Therapeutics were rewarded with 2008 bonuses totaling more than $1 million. CEO Jim Bianco received a bonus of $487,500 on top of his $650,000 annual salary, plus other perks.

Cell Therapeutics' stock fell more than 99% last year. Earlier this month, the stock was halted for four trading days. The stock closed Friday at 5 cents.

With Zevalin gone, Cell Therapeutics retains ownership of pixantrone, a chemotherapy drug which the company is expected to file for approval later this year.

Adam Feuerstein writes regularly for TheStreet.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. Feuerstein appreciates your feedback;

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