Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Add Antigenics (AGEN) to the List of Rallying Cancer Vaccine Stocks

AGEN's Contrary Indicator
AGEN Stock Watch

Early last week Antigenics' (AGEN) stock dropped 13% on fairly heavy volume before rebounding in the days leading up to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting that took place in Orlando, Florida this past weekend.

At the meeting, data compiled from the company's ongoing global patient survival registry was presented regarding Antigenics' kidney cancer vaccine, Oncophage. The data presented, according to a company press release issued on Monday morning, indicated that "patients with kidney cancer at intermediate risk of disease recurrence demonstrated an approximately 46 percent lower risk of death when treated with Oncophage."

In other words, all indications are that Oncophage works. That would explain the investor enthusiasm this week that has nearly tripled the AGEN stock price.

This year's ASCO meeting will be remembered as the one where cancer vaccines left their mark. Long considered a suspect treatment, these vaccines are beginning to demonstrate effectiveness in inducing a patient's own immune system to combat cancerous cells, while ignoring healthy ones, and thereby prolonging the patient's life. In some cases, indications are that the vaccine is also keeping the patient disease free.

Onconthyreon's (ONTY) Stimuvax and Biovest's (BVTI.pk) BiovaxID, among others, were also high profile cancer vaccines that drew a lot of interest at the ASCO conference. And let's not forget the positive results from Dendreon's (DNDN) Provenge trial earlier this year that got the ball rolling. Provenge, which is used to fight advanced prostate cancer, will most likely become America's first approved cancer vaccine either later this year or sometime in 2010. That is assuming that the FDA follows through on previous remarks where they stated that Provenge would be approved if the vaccine met survivability endpoints in the recently completed IMPACT trial- which it did.

Antigenics, with it's distribution partner ISSI Strategy, is preparing for the commercial launch of Oncophage in Russia later this year. That launch, and a possible decision regarding the reimbursement of patient costs by Moscow, means that Antigenics is not too far away from a continuous revenue stream.

This company, and it's stock, is long overdue for the widespread attention that it is now receiving. The best part is that this week's news update may be just the beginning of a long string of positive news released by the company.

Also in the works:

- talks are ongoing with regulators in Europe and the United States regarding the approval path for Oncophage.

- The company's QS-21 Stimulon adjuvant, partnered with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), is currently being tested in the treatment of stage III melanoma patients after surgical removal of their tumor. Updates of that trial and another non small cell lung cancer trial could come this year.

- Oncophage has been granted orphan drug status for the treatment of glioma (brain cancer) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and EMEA.

- according to the company's most recent quarterly report, Clinical development is ongoing for an additional 14 QS-21-containing vaccines by Antigenics’ collaborative partners, including two more in Phase 3 clinical studies.

AGEN could very well be the next DNDN. If you've been accumulating this stock at below a buck for the past year, it may not hurt to take some profit off the table, seeing as how you're sitting on some huge gains.

That being said, AGEN is great hold right now, and is still worth buying on any dips if you're not satisfied with your position in the stock.

After the significant price increase, it's worth noting that if the company intends to raise money through a stock offering or similar financing, the time will be now. If that does occur, buy on the price dip but don't be discouraged. There is immense potential in this company.

VFC is long AGEN.

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