Over the past three months, we’ve taken a deep dive into the 12 cancer types most likely to be diagnosed in the U.S. this year according to the American Cancer Society (link opens PDF file). As we’ve witnessed, public awareness of risk factors have been a big help in reducing the occurrences of some of the most prominent cancer types. But, research has also yielded more effective drugs that are helping improve the quality and length of life for cancer patients for nearly all 12 types of cancer.
Today, as the wrap-up and final article in this Tackling Cancer series, I thought we’d take one final look at the top investment selections across this grouping of cancers, from both a high-risk, high-reward perspective, as well as from an established company perspective.
High-risk, high-reward suggestions
There’s an undeniably large dollar amount being pledged to cancer research, but, even if a drug gains approval, that’s no guarantee that the biotech or pharmaceutical company behind that drug will be a success. Some of the biggest gains (and losses) come from taking a leap of faith based on clinical data, or the approval of one or two drugs or devices within a pipeline. After that, it’s all up to the drug or devices’ effectiveness, its pricing, and the success of the marketing teams promoting the drug or device. Here are a few high-risk, high-reward names you should be keeping your eye on.
- Exelixis, Inc. (NASDAQ:EXEL): In November Exelixis, Inc. (NASDAQ:EXEL) had its first drug, known as Cometriq, approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat metastatic medullary thyroid cancer. Although the market for this disease is pretty small — somewhere between 500 and 700 people in the U.S. — the near-tripling in progression-free survival, or PFS, in trials would indicate to me a strong likelihood that it could translate to success in other cancer types. In mid-stage prostate cancer trials, for instance, Cometriq was found to be particularly effective in dealing with bone metastases as a second or third-line treatment. We won’t get any additional data until next year on Cometriq, but positive data on the prostate cancer front could be enough to double its share price if the PFS, compared to the placebo, is notably strong.
- ImmunoGen, Inc. (NASDAQ:IMGN): In February, Roche Holding Ltd. (ADR) (OTCMKTS:RHHBY) and ImmunoGen, Inc. (NASDAQ:IMGN) received approval for Kadcyla as a secondary treatment for HER2-positive breast cancer. This is ImmunoGen, Inc. (NASDAQ:IMGN)’s first drug approval, and it gives the company a chance to showcase what I feel is one of the future pathways of fighting cancer — its targeted-antibody payload, or TAP, technology. ImmunoGen, Inc. (NASDAQ:IMGN)’s TAP technology works by attaching a toxin — in this case Roche Holding Ltd. (ADR) (OTCMKTS:RHHBY)’s Herceptin — to an antibody, and teaching that antibody to release the toxin when it comes in contact with a protein expressed by the targeted cancer cell. Although ImmunoGen, Inc. (NASDAQ:IMGN)’s royalties on Kadcyla are lower than investors would have hoped for, it’s the additional 18 clinical trials currently under way that should have investors excited about its potential. If the 50% improvement in PFS over the placebo can be translated to even a few of these other trials, ImmunoGen, Inc. (NASDAQ:IMGN)’s share price could soar.
- AEterna Zentaris Inc. (USA) (NASDAQ:AEZS): Bias alert! Bias alert! I own shares of AEterna Zentaris Inc. (USA) (NASDAQ:AEZS), but can’t help but feel that its late-stage intravenous treatment, AEterna Zentaris Inc. (USA) (NASDAQ:AEZS) -108, for the treatment of endometrial cancer, is on its way toward an approval. AEterna Zentaris Inc. (USA) (NASDAQ:AEZS) -108, which is a targeted cytotoxic peptide conjugate (this means it targets cancer cells and leaves healthy cells intact), produced an overall response rate of 30.8% in trials with a clinical benefit rate of 74.4%, and received a special protocol assessment from the FDA. This should streamline getting AEterna Zentaris Inc. (USA) (NASDAQ:AEZS)-108 to market if its upcoming results prove statistically significant, and would go a long way to improving AEterna Zentaris Inc. (USA) (NASDAQ:AEZS)’s severely depressed share price.