The news from Mayo Clinic about the success of Medarex’ (MEDX) and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s (BMY) monoclonal antibody Ipilimumabcombination treatment on inoperable prostate cancer patients cannot be overlooked. The news might represent a breakthrough in prostate cancer treatment as Ipilimumab has demonstrated efficacy on the category of prostate cancer patients who have no hope for surgery and who do not benefit much from conventional treatments.
The optimistic news from Mayo clinic deserved an exciting title and it got it. The Associated Press story was entitled "Mayo Researchers: Dramatic Outcomes in Prostate Cancer Study." The story is about two patients whose large inoperable prostate cancers were successfully treated in Mayo Clinic with Ipilimumab in combination with testosterone blocking hormone and radiation therapy.
Commenting on the successful outcome, physicians familiar with the two cases noted that the Medarex’ monoclonal antibody killed the majority of cancer cells. It induced extensive tumor shrinkage, thus, allowed surgery in inoperable cases. In both patients, the aggressive tumors had grown well beyond the prostate into the abdominal areas.
After receiving the androgen ablation hormone therapy, the patients received a single dose of ipilimumab antibody that instigated a powerful immune response, resulting in the massive death of the tumor cells. Prostate specific antigen (PSA) counts dropped over the following weeks until both patients were deemed eligible for surgery. During surgery, extensive tumor shrinkage was observed. One patient underwent radiation therapy after surgery. Both patients resumed their regular lives.
Medarex’ Ipilimumab Is a fully human antibody that blocks CTLA-4 - a molecule on T-cells that is believed to regulate the immune system’s responses. The absence of CTLA-4 is known to increase the immune system’s T-cell response in fighting disease and vice versa. That’s why Ipilimumab causes a sustained active immune response against cancer cells and that’s why we called the drug a therapeutic-like vaccine disguised in monoclonal antibody.
We believe the successful outcome of Ipilimumab will bring to an end the long strained relationship between Wall Street analysts and Medarex. Many analysts in the past three years persistently discouraged their followers from buying MEDX from fear that a negative outcome of phase 3 trials on melanoma would sink the stock. Their fear was based on the fact that one of three previous results on the skin cancer had failed to meet its primary goal of shrinking melanoma tumors in around 10% of the study's 155 patients.
We have always believed that monoclonal antibodies that aim at specific validated targets and act as they were designed to, will eventually succeed in treating diseases either alone or in various combinations with other drugs. In addition to Ipilimumab, Medarex has the largest monoclonal antibody therapeutics pipeline among all the drug developing firms. Medarex has many alliances, and many customers for its monoclonal antibody technology and many codevelopers of its therapeutics.
We believe that, yes, the time has come for Medarex’ products to be included among the more than twenty marketed monoclonal antibodies targeting various diseases. We also believe that the time has come for some analysts to upgrade MEDX. The firm deserves the upgrade.