Generally, as goes Dendreon (DNDN), goes the cancer immunotherapy sector as a whole.
Such was the case last summer when the Dendreon juggernaut was stopped dead in its tracks after all of the Provenge sales woes came to light, and it was the case yet again when a rebound in those Provenge sales numbers led to a brief, but notable surge earlier this year.
The tide may be changing, though, as some in the sector are starting to move on without DNDN leading the way.
After reporting full fourth quarter results early last week, which were accompanied by modest projections for the coming months, shares slipped back towards the ten dollar mark and left many investors wondering if the golden future once predicted for this company will ever regain its traction.
Meanwhile, shares of Immunocellular Therapeutics (IMUC.OB), for instance, were flying higher all week as speculation about a move to the AMEX and the licensing of new technology stole the show for that company.
Immunocellular's technology could be the 'next generation' to Dendreon's, given the marked advantages in manufacturing and logistics behind IMUC's clinical stage immunotherapeutic treatment for glioblastoma, ICT-107, and investors may be taking notice and dissecting the sector as a whole, rather than solely using the success or failure of Provenge as a sector wide gauge.
Celldex Therapeutics, Inc. (CLDX), Agenus, Inc. (AGEN) and Cel-Sci Corp (CVM) are other players in the sector that have also held their own lately as Dendreon continues to stutter-step.
With all that said, it's not likely that all have lost hope for Dendreon and Provenge.
Sales are still growing, as evidenced by the $77 million brought in during the fourth quarter, a jump from the $65 million third quarter number. Rather than the fourth quarter numbers, it was the predicted slowing pace of growth that concerned investors.
"As we look at January, given the end of the year holiday office closures, the physicians saw fewer patients," noted Dendreon President and CEO John Johnson during an earnings conference call on Monday, "Based on the schedules thus far, we expect our first quarter will have minor growth in a low single-digits."
The low single-digit growth contradicts general analyst sentiment that had predicted high single-digit growth for the quarter, and these comments were enough to lead to the 20% drop in price that DNDN experienced after the release of the earnings report.
After the initial drop, shares held steady at eleven dollars for the remainder of the week; hardly an achievement for this once-high-flyer that saw it's share price above $40 within just the past year, but a sign of stability and maybe some confidence that sales will eventually pick up and become the billion dollar baby that many predicted upon approval.
As the Dendreon story continues to play out, keep an eye on the other players in the sector that are starting to gain their own traction and reputations outside of the DNDN shadow, as it looks like many already are.
Disclosure: Long CVM, AGEN.