Cell Genesys Prostate Cancer Tests Should Continue

Cell Genesys Inc. said an independent panel recommended continuing a large study of the company's leading drug candidate, GVAX, a treatment that stimulates the immune system against prostate cancer.

The study, Vital-1, has enrolled 626 patients with prostate cancer, the South San Francisco-based company said today in a statement. The trial is designed to measure whether the drug, GVAX, can help patients live longer than those taking Sanofi-Aventis SA (SAN)'s Taxotere, a chemotherapy drug.

Cell Genesys expects enough deaths to occur in the trial to compare GVAX's effect on survival in the second half of 2009, the company said. The panel could have recommended the trial be halted early because of safety concerns or in the event GVAX were so effective it would be unethical to continue giving the other drug. The company said it expected the trial to go forward.

``We regard this as an encouraging measurement of progress,'' said Stephen Sherwin, Cell Genesys' chief executive officer, in a conference call today with analysts.

Cell Genesys climbed 6 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $2.11 at 4 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market composite trading after rising as much as 8 percent earlier today. The stock has declined 33 percent in the past 12 months.

GVAX is made of whole tumor cells that have been dosed with radiation to prevent them from multiplying in the body. The cells carry markers of prostate cancer that are supposed to ``teach'' the immune system to recognize them as foreign and mount an attack.

Another trial of GVAX in combination with Taxotere, called Vital-2, is expected to finish enrolling 600 patients in the first half of 2009.

To contact the reporter on this story: Luke Timmerman in San Francisco at ltimmerman@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale in New York at rgale5@bloomberg.net

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