The difference is that Herceptin only targets high levels of expression, leaving up to 50% of the market unaccounted for. In a phase 2 study, Galena Biopharma Inc (NASDAQ:GALE)’s approach of targeting this protein and activating the immune system caused an overall 50% reduction in recurrence compared to the control group.
But more impressive was the 78% reduction in vaccinated patients who were optimally dosed and who received booster shots. In the company’s ongoing phase 3 study, all patients will be optimally dosed and will receive boosters, further adding fuel to the optimistic fire.
So far, Galena Biopharma Inc (NASDAQ:GALE)’s approach of preventing recurrence is working, but it is a new approach that has not yet been done in immunotherapy. Therefore, Galena is a very speculative stock, trading with a market cap of around $200 million. But given the company’s early results, Herceptin’s large sales, and the potential patient population that exists, Galena might be worth a long hard look to succeed in immunotherapy.
Celldex and Galena Biopharma Inc (NASDAQ:GALE) fit into the broad category of companies using what Dendreon Corporation (NASDAQ:DNDN) made famous, but they have modified their therapeutic approach to experience early success. This speaks volumes for the direction of immunotherapy, an industry that is nowhere near dead — but rather innovating quickly.
Just this year, at ASCO, anti-PD1s were the highlight of the show. Being developed by Merck, Roche, and Bristol-Myers Squibb, anti-PD1s essentially remove the camouflage from cancer cells so that the immune system can identify them as foreign and then attack. Merck’s anti-PD-1 drug labrolizumab shrank tumors in 38% of patients with advanced melanoma, and along with its peers , prove that this approach might be the next phase of immunotherapy in treating the disease.
With that said, immunotherapy doesn’t appear to be on the decline, but rather innovating quickly. For investors, we shouldn’t look solely at past failures, but rather new technologies, and the interest shown by big pharma to develop in this space. Then, we realize the future is quite bright for immunotherapy — and those that are innovating.
The article Is There Still Upside in Immunotherapy? originally appeared on Fool.com and is written by Brian Nichols.
Brian Nichols is long Galena and Celldex. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned.
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