OncoGenex, Toiling in Dendreon’s Shadow, Scopes Out Partners For Prostate Cancer Drug

8/5/09Follow @xconomy

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in combination with docetaxel, the standard chemotherapy, lived a median time of 23.8 months, about 6.9 months longer than those who got docetaxel by itself.

OncoGenex has a lower profile than Dendreon, partly for both business and scientific reasons. OncoGenex, originally based in Vancouver, BC, failed in an effort to go public on its own, but found a way onto the Nasdaq last year when it merged into the shell of a failed public company, Bothell, WA-based Sonus Pharmaceuticals. The OncoGenex treatment also doesn’t have quite the gee-whiz factor of Dendreon, which is attempting to introduce the first FDA-approved treatment that can actively stimulate the immune system to fight prostate cancer cells like a virus. The OncoGenex drug is an antisense therapy, which means it is genetically engineered to block the RNA that gives rise to a protein called clusterin, which is associated with enabling tumors to resist chemotherapy.

Still, the magnitude of the survival benefit in the OncoGenex trial was slightly longer than the one seen in Dendreon’s pivotal study, so this generated a lot of interest in the cancer community. An estimated 30,000 men die of prostate cancer each year in the U.S., and analysts are predicting the Dendreon therapy will easily eclipse $1 billion in annual sales at its peak.

OncoGenex has mapped out a game plan to build up enough evidence to get FDA approval of its therapy, although the trials haven’t yet started. The company is planning to run a pair of clinical trials enrolling a combined 1,100 patients—some getting their first course of chemotherapy, and others getting their second course.

OncoGenex only has 26 employees, so it doesn’t have enough people or resources to pull off a trial that big by itself. The company is in talks with potential partners, who are discussing … Next Page »

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