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Originally published June 5, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 28, 2007 at 4:13 PM

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Provenge critics receive threats

Two cancer doctors have received threatening e-mails in recent weeks because of their opposition to Provenge, an experimental prostate-cancer...

Bloomberg News

Two cancer doctors have received threatening e-mails in recent weeks because of their opposition to Provenge, an experimental prostate-cancer drug developed by Seattle-based Dendreon.

The doctors, Howard Scher of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and Maha Hussain of the University of Michigan, received threats by e-mail, Christine Hickey, a spokeswoman for Memorial Sloan-Kettering, said Monday. The threats were first reported in The New York Times.

Scher received the first threat in April, after he wrote a letter urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reject Provenge, Hickey said. Scher's letter, and a similar message from Hussain, were published by The Cancer Letter, a trade publication, sparking controversy on the Internet.

On May 9, the FDA rejected Provenge, asking the company to provide more data showing the drug works.

Scher requested additional security at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting in Chicago, after hearing patients were gathering at the conference Saturday to protest the FDA's ruling, Hickey said.

About a dozen prostate-cancer advocates held a rally at the meeting, carrying small yellow signs saying "My prostate, my choice" and "Prostate Cancer Death Count — 54,000 by 2008."

They were asked to leave the conference for lacking proper permits, an ASCO staffer said. The protesters didn't appear to make any threats and left peacefully, the staffer said.

Another group of advocates was to meet in Washington on Monday with Andrew von Eschenbach, the FDA commissioner. They hoped to persuade the agency to approve the drug or allow patients access to it through a restricted program, said Chuck Bennett, an advocate for Provenge from Fond du Lac, Wis.

Dendreon has said it may receive data from an ongoing study to support approval of Provenge in mid-to-late 2008. The company hopes to be the first to commercialize a therapy that can stimulate the body's immune system to fight cancer cells.

Provenge would have been the first marketed product for Dendreon.

While Provenge prolonged lives in advanced cases in one study presented to an FDA advisory panel this year, the drug didn't meet the trial's primary goal of slowing spread of the disease, which kills 27,000 men a year in the U.S.

Dendreon stock was up 10 cents at $8.20 Monday.

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