It’s incredible how far medicine has come. When we got sick in the stone ages, there wasn’t much that could be done. In the renaissance era, alcohol was a one-size-fits-all medication – and a source of nutrition for that matter. In the early to mid-1900s, snake oils and ineffective elixirs flooded the market. Today, we have ways to effectively cure some forms of cancer.
The medical innovation that has happened over the past several decades is undeniable and has been nothing short of amazing. In fact, the average life expectancy was only 67 years in 1950. Today, it’s more than 71 years and growing. Moreover, not only are we living longer lives, but quality of life from a medical standpoint is greatly improving.
This innovation isn’t only good for the patients that are seeing extended lifespans and better quality of life from innovative treatments that are or are becoming available. Medical innovation is also driving strong retirements and building wealth for those that make the right investments in companies on the leading edge of this mix of technological and medical advances.
The good news is that the innovation, and the investment opportunities arising as a result of it are far from over. One field that is booming with opportunity is the field of oncology. While cancer is not nearly as grim a prognosis as it used to be, there are still several forms of cancer that leave patients and their care providers with few to no options.
Nonetheless, active clinical trials are taking place in order to find options for these patients. This is where I believe the great opportunities in biotech today lie. Below are several companies that I believe have incredible potential to see strong long-run growth as they lead the charge in oncological innovation.
AbbVie (ABBV): You Can’t Mention Oncology Without Mentioning AbbVie
You can’t talk about oncology-focused companies without mentioning AbbVie. While it’s surely not the only focus of the company, it’s a big one, and the company has made some serious waves in the industry.
At the moment, AbbVie has three approved therapeutic options that are designed to combat cancer. The first, known as Emplicity, is approved for the second-line treatment of multiple myeloma. Venclexta is indicated for the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia and three forms of chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Last, but definitely not least, we have Imbruvica a drug that’s currently approved for cGVHD and relapsed and refractory marginal zone lymphoma.
AbbVie hasn’t just done a great job of getting drugs approved, it has also done an incredible job on the commercialization side of the coin. Imbruvica is #7 on the list of the top ten best selling cancer drugs of 2018. The drug grossed more than $6 billion in 2018, generating $3.59 billion in revenue for AbbVie and $2.615 billion for the company’s partner in the drug, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ).
The innovation at AbbVie isn’t over either. The company is currently assessing more than 20 oncology-focused drugs across a large number of indications in trials ranging from Phase 1 to Phase 3. Seven of these trials are late-stage studies that could set the stage for a New Drug Application relatively soon.
With proven success in the field of oncology and more than 20 opportunities to hit the next big indication, AbbVie is a stock that should not be ignored.
bluebird bio (BLUE): A Blockbuster In The Making
bluebird bio is an up-and-coming biotechnology company with a clinical program in oncology that’s turning heads. The company’s lead drug (bb2121) is currently being developed under a partnership with Celgene (CELG).
The drug is a genetic therapeutic known as a CAR-T therapy. Essentially, these types of therapies bolster the human body’s own immune system, giving it the tools it needs to win the war. These genetically altered T-cells act as seek and destroy missiles, so to speak, seeking out cancer cells and attacking them when found.
Although, bb2121 is in very early stages, phase 1 to be exact, it is already showing great promise. In an announcement made earlier this year, bluebird bio provided an update on the trial. The data in the update showed that bb2121 was capable of staving off disease progression by a median of 11.8 months in the patient population to date. Nearly half of the patients in the trial reached a complete response, with most (85%) responding to treatment.
bluebird bio is no one-trick pony either. The company has a long list of early clinical and preclinical stage oncology assets. Outside of oncology, the company’s sickle cell disease candidate, LentiGlobin, is showing promise in mid-to-late stage trials.
With multiple ongoing trials, there are plenty of catalysts to look forward to in bluebird bio stock ahead. Moreover, the company’s genetic approach to oncology is turning heads. While data is early, it’s also overwhelmingly promising, making this an oncology play that’s worth your attention.
INmune Bio (INMB): An Early-Stage Immunotherapy Player With Incredible Potential
INmune Bio is yet another up and comer that’s really starting to turn some heads. While all of the company’s assets are in early phases, the unique approach the company is taking toward treatment is catching some serious attention.
Of the two oncology assets the company is working on, INKmune and INB03, it’s hard to determine which is more valuable. Both treatment options take a unique approach and have the potential to carve out their own niche should they make it to approval.
First, INKmune targets residual disease, or the small amount of cancer cells that are left behind once a patient reaches remission. In relapsed patients, their body’s immune system was not equipped to deal with this residual disease. However, INKmune is believed to empower the body’s innate immune system to do just that. The treatment assists the body’s own NK cells in eliminating residual disease, ultimately leading to a potential reduction in risk of relapse.
INB03 is a treatment being developed for patients who do not respond well to checkpoint inhibitors (CPIs). Unfortunately, for these patients, options can be slim. The treatment targets MDS cells or MDSC cells, which are believed to be the leading cause of patients not responding to checkpoint inhibitors. In doing so, the treatment increases the efficacy of these treatment options by allowing the CPI to work as it is designed to.
Should either of these treatments make it to approval, they have the potential to be the first and only across a range of indications. Considering this, both have the potential to become blockbuster cancer therapies. Perhaps that’s why the company is turning heads with each data release.
Seattle Genetics (SGEN): A One-Trick Pony With A Very Cool Trick
From an oncology standpoint, Seattle Genetics is a one-trick pony. On the other hand, wouldn’t you pay to see a pony that could do a backflip while playing the ukulele? While we tend to stay away from the one-trick ponies in the world of oncology investing, if that trick is cool enough, it’s all the company needs.
When it comes to Seattle Genetics, that trick is known as Adcetris. The treatment is an antibody-drug conjugate. That means that it works with another chemotherapy, guiding the treatment to specific types of cancer cells.
In the case of Adcetris, the drug specifically targets a protein known as CD30 that’s only found on the cell membrane of cancerous cells. Once this protein is found, the drug introduces monomethyl auristatin, an anti-cancer agent that attacks the cancerous cells.
At the moment, Adcetris is approved as an option for the treatment of Hodgkin’s lymphoma and various forms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
While finding the protein and addressing the cancer is the trick, Seattle Genetics is repeating the trick with various drugs under development. These include enfortumab vedotin, tisotumab vedotin, tucatinib, and ladiratuzumab vedotin, all of which are showing promise.
Sure, finding a type of protein known only to be found in cancerous cells and attacking it really is only one trick, but that trick is an incredibly valuable one, making Seattle Genetics one for the watchlist.
Clovis Oncology (CLVS): Rucaparib’s Narrow Focus Is A Great Thing!
Last but not least, we have Clovis Oncology. Another one-trick pony with a very good trick, Clovis Oncology is the maker of Rucaparib. The company mixes the idea of focusing its efforts on one therapeutic approach and carving a niche at the same time.
The claim to fame at Clovis Oncology is a drug known as Rucaparib. A polymerase 1, 2, and 3 inhibitor, Rucaparib is currently approved as a treatment for BRCA-mutant ovarian cancer. The treatment is also at the center of several clinical trials.
Rucaparib is being assessed as an option to treat various ovarian, prostate, breast, gastroesophageal, pancreatic, lung, and bladder cancers.
As the development of Rucaparib for various cancer types takes place, the drug’s current approval in BRCA-mutant ovarian cancer is footing the bill. In the first quarter of the year, the company generated $18.5 million in sales of the drug, more than doubling revenue from $7 million year over year.
As Clovis Oncology continues to address relatively narrow and sometimes forgotten areas of oncology, it has the potential to carve out various niches, dominating each and every one of them. All in all, this makes Clovis a stock that should be on your watchlist.
The takeaway here is simple. Medical innovation has opened the door to various new approaches to the treatment of cancer, and that innovation isn’t stopping any time soon. This means that not only will patients continue to have new options to take advantage of, but opportunities will likely continue to arise for investors. In my opinion, the companies listed above outline these types of opportunities.
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