(CTIC) Cell Therapeutics Analyst Mintains Neutral on Shares

We are maintaining a Neutral recommendation on Cell Therapeutics Inc. (CTIC) with a target price of $2.25.

Cell Therapeutics Inc. based in Seattle, Washington, is focused on developing drugs for cancer. The company’s lead pipeline candidate, pixantrone, is being developed for the treatment of hematologic malignancies and solid tumors.

In December 2010, Cell Therapeutics filed an appeal against the decision of the FDA in April 2010 to deny approval to pixantrone for the treatment of relapsed, aggressive non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, or NHL, in patients who have not responded to other treatment options. The approval was denied due to concerns that the late stage trial PIX301 (which formed the basis of the NDA filing) had not sufficiently proved the effectiveness of the drug.

The FDA asked Cell Therapeutics to conduct an additional trial to determine the safety and efficacy of pixantrone. Cell Therapeutics met with the FDA Office of New Drugs (OND) in May 2011 which allowed it to re-submit the NDA for pixantrone without the need for an additional trial.

The OND recommended Cell Therapeutics will have to conduct an additional independent radiologic review utilizing a new independent panel of radiologists of the PIX301 trial to determine the soundness of the primary endpoint. The company will also submit new information regarding circumstances of stopping the PIX 301 trial early.

In June 2011, the company received guidance on how to proceed with the resubmission from the Division of Oncology Drug Products (the DODP). The DODP focused on the information which the company proposes to submit and on the composition of the new radiology expert panel.

The DODP will review the NDA within 6 months of the resubmission. Cell Therapeutics will submit the additional information later in 2011 and anticipates receiving approval in the first half of 2012.

The decision from the OND has removed a major overhang for Cell Therapeutics and revived the prospects of pixantrone. The company has been saved 2-3 years time by getting the opportunity to file on the basis of the original completed trial, PIX301, instead of the new trial, PIX306, which the company began in March 2011.

The company has also filed a Marketing Authorization Application (MAA) for the candidate in Europe. The drug is expected to be approved in EU in 2011. Approval of the drug in the Europe will boost Cell Therapeutics’ top-line and provide it with some much needed funds.

The company’s other late stage oncology pipeline candidate, which includes Opaxio (being studied for the treatment of ovarian, esophageal and brain cancer) and tosedostat ((being studied for hematopoietic cancers such as acute myeloid leukemia (AML), myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and multiple myeloma (MM)), will be synergistic with pixantrone.

The company has a global licensing deal with Novartis (NVS) for Opaxio and will receive substantial royalty payments from Novartis once the drug is approved. Tosedostat has demonstrated encouraging responses as a single agent therapy in treating hematopoietic cancers such as AML, MDS, and myeloma which resonates well with Cell Therapeutics’ experience.

However, we prefer to remain on the sidelines as Cell Therapeutics is heavily dependent on the approval of pixantrone. Therefore, any delay in gaining approval would be a major blow for the company.

Even if pixantrone gains approval it will face tough competition from several established products in the market. One of the top-selling drugs for the treatment of NHL is Biogen/Roche’s (BIIB/RHHBY) Rituxan. Other competing products include Sanofi Aventis’ (SNY) Campath, Takeda’s Velcade and Cephalon‘s (CEPH) Treanda.

BIOGEN IDEC INC (BIIB): Free Stock Analysis Report

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SANOFI-AVENTIS (SNY): Free Stock Analysis Report

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