The costs of cancer drug research and consequent cost of treatment is fairly obvious and of course there are opportunities for someone to profit from the industry. Looking at it all from an investor point of view rather than a medical one can provide a whole new (though not necessarily comforting) perspective.
#Out of the millions of ways you can die, you've avoided all of them. Look at you go.
#Do my dogs understand my vision limitations at night, or do they think I just enjoy kicking them when I walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night?
Promise in New Cancer Treatments, for Patients and Investors
Morningstar’s equity analysts find the U.S. market overall somewhat overvalued, but there are pockets of opportunity for long-term investors. Pharmaceuticals are one of those areas, and some key players in the sector are fortifying their moats with emerging immuno-oncology drugs, as discussed in a recent white paper from Morningstar
Co-author Damien Conover, director of pharmaceutical research answers some questions:
What prompted your recent report on immuno-oncology drugs?
Conover: There are two factors driving our research on immuno-oncology. The ability to innovate new drugs to offset products losing patent protection is really a core element to the wide economic moats for large-cap pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms. When we think about the next generation of products, immuno-oncology drugs are very transformative, with a lot of pricing power, and will likely result in a lot of cash flow for these pharmaceutical firms, helping them to offset some of the patent losses.
What advantages do these drugs have over older-generation chemotherapy treatments?
Conover: Chemotherapy is the core bedrock for most cancers, but it is a blunt instrument. It kills the cancer, but it kills a lot of other living parts of the body around it, and it can have a lot of side effects. And it typically doesn’t have a very good long-term survival rate.
The new oncology drugs try to be more precise with the drug treatment, and they allow the body to work like it’s supposed to.
Pricing power is key to pharmaceutical moats, and the possibility of legislative price limits poses a threat, as do secular trends such as supply chain consolidation. Are immuno-oncology drugs better able to withstand such threats?
Conover: Because of the innovation that they offer and the complexity of the treatment—meaning it’s hard to substitute some products based on how these labels are being developed for each drug individually—it’s very unlikely you’re going to see a massive amount of pricing pressure for immuno-oncology drugs.
There’s more pricing pressure for drugs in areas where there’s less innovation. Any generic drug that hasn’t felt pricing pressure yet will likely feel it. But in the innovative drug space, where there is less interchangeability, that’s where pricing power is probably going to hold up
I understand that these drugs are narrowly targeted, so that a drug for lung cancer would not necessarily be applied to head and neck.
Conover: Cancer used to be just cancer, and one chemotherapy would likely work for all, or at least partially work for a lot of cancer. What we’ve subsequently found is cancer can be broken down by parts of the body and then can be further broken down by biomarkers. Typically speaking, when these drugs work for a type of cancer with a certain type of biomarker, that can sometimes translate into a benefit for other cancers with a similar biomarker. However, that’s not always the case. There is some variability of response rate across the different types of cancer, and certain cancers can be very different.
Study boosts hope of ‘liquid biopsies’ for cancer screening(Philadelphia)
Scientists have the first major evidence that blood tests called liquid biopsies hold promise for screening people for cancer. Hong Kong doctors tried it for a type of head and neck cancer, and boosted early detection and one measure of survival.
The tests detect DNA that tumors shed into the blood. Some are used now to monitor cancer patients, and many companies are trying to develop versions of these for screening, as possible alternatives to mammograms, colonoscopies and other such tests. The new study shows this approach can work, at least for this one form of cancer and in a country where it’s common.
“This work is very exciting on the larger scale” because it gives a blueprint for how to make tests for other tumor types such as lung or breast, said Dr. Dennis Lo of Chinese University of Hong Kong. “We are brick by brick putting that technology into place.”
Lo is best known for discovering that fetal DNA can be found in a mom’s blood, which launched a new era of non-invasive testing for pregnant women.
The study involved nasopharyngeal cancer, which forms at the top of the throat behind the nose. It’s a good test case for DNA screening because it’s an aggressive cancer where early detection matters a lot, and screening could be tried in a population where the cancer is most common — middle-aged Chinese men.
The researchers estimate 593 people would need to be screened at a total cost of $28,600 to identify one cancer case. It may be worth it in Hong Kong, but maybe not in places like the U.S. where the disease is rare, and more people would have to be screened at a greater cost to find each case, said Dr. Richard Ambinder of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, who wrote a commentary in the journal. Still, “this is showing that liquid biopsies have great promise,” he said. “This is an advance that will indeed save lives.”
Cancer-survivor QB Jim Kelly spreads message of hope
GREENSBORO — Jim Kelly wears a blue rubber wrist band on his left forearm.
Ask him about it, and the gregarious Hall of Fame quarterback from the Buffalo Bills will tell you there’s a whole lot more to life than football.
Kelly came to Greensboro to play in the Wyndham Championship Pro-Am and he came to spread a message of hope.
Kelly is 57 years old now. That, in itself, is something of a miracle. He was diagnosed with cancer in his head and neck – squamous cell carcinoma – in 2013, and portion of his upper jaw was removed. Nine months later, tests show cancer in his sinuses. He lost 70 pounds during radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
Doctors gave him a 10 percent chance of survival. But by August 2014, he was cancer-free and recovering.
“I feel pretty good,” Kelly said. “Look, we all have our problems. Everybody has issues they have to deal with. You move on. I’m fine, and I’m here today. That’s all that counts.”
Kelly has gained back some of the weight he lost. His voice is still his own, although the surgeries and treatments have left him with a lisp. He’s lost the sense of taste, and cannot open his mouth wide enough to eat a sandwich.Yet through it all, Kelly remains unfailingly positive.