SEATTLE ( TheStreet) -- Christmas and Hanukah came early this year for executives and directors at Cell Therapeutics ( CTIC). On Nov. 10, the company gave nearly 10 million shares in free stock grants to senior management and directors. The largest single award -- almost 3 million shares -- went to CEO Jim Bianco, according to filings made with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The granting of free stock (the cost basis for the shares was zero) is part of the company's "long-term equity and retention" program, said Cell Therapeutics spokesman Dan Eramian, in an email statement. With largesse like this, it's a wonder that any of Cell Therapeutics' executives would even think about leaving! At Friday's close of 98 cents, Cell Therapeutics shares are up 600% this year, but the stock is down 50% from its June high due to a number of setbacks and disappointments related to the company's drug pipeline. In August, the FDA refused to grant priority, six-month review to its lymphoma drug pixantrone, while Cell Therapeutics, in September, withdrew its European approval application for the lung cancer drug Opaxio. The company is also still struggling with cash and debt issues. Bianco benefited the most from the new stock grants. He was awarded 2.9 million free shares of Cell Therapeutics stock. After accounting for stock sold to cover taxes, Bianco's take amounted to more than $1.8 million, based on the stock's Nov. 10 closing price. In addition to Bianco, four other top executives were awarded similar free stock grants, as were all six of the company's outside directors.
The negative results sent Poniard shares plunging 77% to $1.70 in Monday's pre-market trading session. Small cell lung cancer patients treated with picoplatin had an 11% reduction in the risk of death compared to patients treated with best supportive care, but this survival benefit was not robust enough to be statistically significant. "We are disappointed that the trial did not meet the primary endpoint. The data indicates that more patients on the best supportive care arm received chemotherapy following progression than those on the picoplatin arm, and we believe that this may have been a significant factor contributing to the trial outcome, as picoplatin appeared to demonstrate a trend toward a survival advantage," said Poniard CEO Jerry McMahon, in a statement. The possibility that chemotherapy used as a third-line treatment after progression would hurt picoplatin's chances was one of the major risks of the phase III study identified by Poniard bears going into Monday's data release. Picoplatin is a next-generation platinum chemotherapy drug designed to overcome resistance to prior platinum therapy. The drug may also cause less nerve-related toxicity. The phase III study, dubbed "SPEAR," compared treatment with picoplatin against best supportive care in second-line small cell lung cancer patients. These were patients with advanced, progressive disease after treatment with a front-line platinum agent. The primary endpoint of the study was overall survival.
-- Reported by Adam Feuerstein in Boston.