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Johnson & Johnson's Prostate Cancer Drug Zytiga Hits Target in Study [Updated]


A study of pre-chemotherapy patients was stopped early because the drug worked well. Dendreon's stock falls on the news, while Medivation rises.

Editor's note: This story has been updated based on new reporting. The current story replaces the story that ran on our site earlier today under the headline "Johnson & Johnson's Prostate Cancer Drug Zytiga Extends Lives of Men in Study."

Johnson & Johnson's (JNJ) prostate cancer drug Zytiga worked so well in a late-stage study that the trial was stopped early. Researchers recommended the patients who were receiving placebo pills in the study be given Zytiga.

The news shakes up the competition for a better prostate cancer treatment. Zytiga was approved last year for men with advanced prostate cancer who already received chemotherapy. J&J is studying the drug in hopes of eventually selling it for patients who have not received chemo, which is a bigger potential market.

Positive results for J&J is not good news for Dendreon (DNDN), which sells the cancer vaccine Provenge. Dendreon's product is a biological drug designed to trigger the body's own immune system to fight cancer. Touted as an alternative to chemo, sales of Provenge have been disappointing.

Another J&J rival, Medivation (MDVN), however, is perceived as benefiting from the Zytiga news. Medivation is developing its own drug that is similar to Zytiga. Medivation initially will apply for US approval of its drug to treat advanced stage patients but CEO David Hung has his sights set on the bigger pre-chemo market. (See Medivation Prostate Cancer Drug Works Well, Appears Safe in Study.)

In morning trading, J&J rose 1% to $64.91, Medivation jumped more than 14% to $73.21, and Dendreon dropped 16% to $9.18.

Medivation's stock more than doubled in the past few months on hope for its experimental drug. Dendreon, once the toast of the biotech world, lost almost three-quarters of its value since announcing in August that sales of Provenge were not living up to expectations. (See Dendreon's Stock Plunges on Low Provenge Sales.) With its shares rising 7% in the past year, J&J has lagged big pharmaceutical rivals Pfizer (PFE) and Merck (MRK). The health care giant's stock has been flat over the past six months.

The positive Zytiga results is welcome news for a company that has been troubled by numerous recalls of over the counter medicines, mishaps that have tarnished J&J's once pristine image.

Full details of the study will be revealed later at a medical meeting. The study data is being submitted for publication for a peer-review medical journal.

The study of almost 1,100 patients compared patients taking Zytiga and the steroid prednisone to those taking a placebo and prednisone.

The independent researchers evaluating the study recommended stopping the trial based on "interim analysis in which differences in radiographic progression-free survival, overall survival and secondary endpoints were observed that constitute evidence of clinical benefit as well as continued evidence of favorable safety in patients" who received Zytiga.

We'll have to wait a bit longer to get the actual statistics. But, for now, it's a hot race for better treatments.

UPDATE: J&J spokeswoman Kellie McLaughlin says Zytiga showed "a strong trend for overall survival." That means the survival benefit wasn't statistically significant. However, the study reached other targets "all of which constituted compelling evidence of clinical benefit."

In afternoon trading, J&J rose 1% to $64.91, Medivation jumped more than 14% to $73.36 and Dendreon dropped 6% to $10.18.

Twitter: @brettchase

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