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Investing Insights for the 2010 ASCO Meeting

Written By Brian Hicks

Posted June 1, 2010

A freckly redhead, my wife looks a wee bit like Maureen O’Hara did in The Quiet Man — as Irish as a pint of Guinness.

And while her being Irish means she’s pretty fun at parties, my wife’s fair skin is also a source of never-ending worry…

After one such scare several years ago, she now visits her dermatologist twice a year in attempts to put every questionable spot under the microscope and stay one step ahead of the disease. And thankfully, it’s a plan that’s still working after thirteen years.

The sad fact is that many others aren’t as fortunate in detecting, diagnosing, and treating skin cancer. Melanomas can be particularly deadly; it is a cancer that claims the lives of roughly 65,000 people every year.

ASCO Meeting Stocks

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that cancer researchers continue to fight and make new progress in skin cancer treatments. Leading the charge is a new drug from Bristol-Myer’s Squibb (NYSE: BMY) — one among many of the new drugs that will be featured during this week’s American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting.

Held from June 4-8 in Chicago, our own Ian Cooper calls the ASCO conference “The Super Bowl of Cancer” because that’s how important the annual meeting has become.

On stage in Chicago next week, Bristol-Myers will release the data on an experimental new immunotherapy called ipilmumab. Cancer immunotherapies are different from other drugs in that they stimulate the patient’s own immune system to attack the malignancies.

In earlier trials, ipilmumab added 18 months to lives of more than one third of the patients dosed with the new drug. Conversely, existing treatments for advanced patients only extend life by 6 to 8 months.

If successful, that would offer much needed hope to the 130,000 new melanoma patients as early as 2012.

“We have hundreds of patients who are still alive after taking this treatment, and that is something unheard of” in advanced-stage melanoma, Bristol-Myers’s vice president of oncology clinical research, Renzo Canetta, told Bloomberg last week.

But the good news on the melanoma front is not the only upside expected this week at the ASCO meeting…

According to Ian, Delcath Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: DCTH) is another stock you’ll want to pay particular attention to:

Delcath has already announced that Phase III data indicated that the therapy more than tripled survival-free progression.  And what’s impressive is that this therapy delivers the chemotherapy agent straight to the organ and cuts back overall toxicity, allowing for higher dosages.

Better yet, says Ian, Reuters recently reported that the market for Delcath’s system to treat melanoma which has spread to the liver could be $745 million in the U.S. alone.

“This could be big,” Ian told me. “Real big.” 

The ASCO Meeting Short List

As for other stocks to keep an eye on at the world’s biggest gathering of cancer doctors, here’s Cooper’s short list:

Provectus Pharma (PVCT.OB)
Provectus (in the same industry as Dendreon) is focused on the development of cancer and psoriasis treatment based on the Rose Bengal compound. The company is looking strong ahead of key clinical trials and ahead of the ASCO conference.

Celldex Therapeutics (NASDAQ: CLDX)
Partnered with Pfizer, Celldex’s CDX-110 was developed for glioblastoma, a common and aggressive form of brain cancer. Shares of this stock are already running nicely ahead of the ASCO meeting.

Pharmacyclics Inc. (NASDAQ: PCYC) – also a possible takeover target, we believe
We’re looking for the company to present data at ASCO to build support for its Btk inhibitor PCI-32765 monotherapy. Roth Capital recently raised its price target on the stock from $8 to $11.

Nektar Therapeutics (NASDAQ: NKTR)
We’re looking for the company to update its Phase II study of NKTR-102 in women with platinum-resistant/refractory ovarian cancer. The company reportedly had good results from this study in March.

Keryx Biopharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: KERX)
We’re looking for the company to present results of a Phase II study of perifosine in combination with capecitabine as compared to a placebo plus capecitabine in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer.

Longer term, the biotech sector is undoubtedly going to emerge eventually as one of the decade’s biggest winners. After all, cancer treatments are about a whole lot more than hope these days… And every year at the ASCO meeting, the finish line gets that much closer.

As for skin cancer patients, ipilmumab seems to be a step in the right direction according to Jedd Wolchok, an oncologist who specializes in the treatment of melanoma.

“We are resetting the balance between the person and the tumor and the tumor no longer has the upper hand,” Wolchok told Bloomberg last week. “We have been talking about turning cancer into a chronic disease, and this shows it is possible.”

I’ll take that over a four leaf clover any day of the week.

By the way, Ian’s also tells me that he will soon be naming the biotech stock that could easily rival the 338% gains that Options Trading Pit subscribers won on Dendreon earlier this year.

Stay tuned.

Your bargain-hunting analyst,

steve sig

Steve Christ
Editor, Wealth Daily