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Corixa's Cancer Drug Disappoints by Missing FDA Meeting

Bexxar apparently won't be considered for approval in December, boosting a rival from Idec.



has failed to get its experimental cancer drug on the agenda for a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel meeting in December, a delay that could be a boon for rival

Idec Pharmaceuticals



Corixa needs to get Bexxar reviewed and approved by the regulators as soon as possible in order to catch up with the progress made by Idec's drug, Zevalin. An FDA advisory panel gave Zevalin a

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positive recommendation on Sept. 11, and the drug is expected to get final approval in January.

Both Bexxar and Zevalin are a new type of cancer fighter -- monoclonal antibodies with an extra kick of radiation attached that increases their tumor-killing power. If approved, both drugs will be used in patients suffering from advanced cases of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

But when the agenda for the Dec. 5-6 meeting of the FDA's Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee was released Tuesday, Corixa wasn't on the list as expected. The next scheduled meeting of the advisory committee is Feb. 27-28.

Word of the snub hit Wall Street about 1 p.m. EST. Corixa shares, which had been trading flat to slightly down all day, fell further to close at $10.91, off 14%.

Investors took this as good news for Idec, which should now have no worries about launching Zevalin early next year without any competition. Idec also traded flat most of Tuesday until the news leaked out. The company's shares then jumped, closing up 4% to $59.21.

Pacific Growth Equities analyst Tom Dietz, while acknowledging the disappointment of Corixa's absence from the December cancer advisory panel meeting, downplayed its significance because the FDA is not expected to rule on Bexxar until the third quarter of next year, he says. Dietz rates Corixa a strong buy, and his firm does banking for the company.

But Banc of America Securities analyst Eric Ende sees it differently, calling the Corixa snub "another delay for Bexxar" that will benefit Idec by reducing near-term competition. Ende rates Idec a strong buy, and his firm does banking for the company.