The wait is over. Oncologists have been eagerly looking forward to the phase 3 study results for Abraxane in treating pancreatic cancer. On Friday, Swiss biotech Celgene (Nasdaq: CELG ) ended the anticipation.
What's the verdict? Pancreatic cancer patients taking Abraxane plus Gemzar, developed by Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY ) , achieved statistically significant overall survival rates than patients taking Gemzar alone.
Oncologists will love this good news -- and so should you. Here are two reasons why.
1. More hope for patients
Someone you either know or at least know of has died from pancreatic cancer. Steve Jobs, Patrick Swayze, Michael Landon, Luciano Pavarotti, Jack Benny, and Count Basie are just a few well-known people who died from this deadly disease.
Pancreatic cancer ranks as the fourth leading type of cancer. More than 44,000 Americans were diagnosed with it last year, with 37,000 Americans dying from it last year. Only one in 18 patients with pancreatic cancer survives more than five years -- the lowest survival rate of any cancer.
These statistics show that current treatment options such as Gemzar, Roche's Tarceva and Teva Pharmaceuticals' (NYSE: TEVA ) Adrucil just aren't extremely effective at treating pancreatic cancer. Other experimental drugs haven't fared well, either. Amgen (Nasdaq: AMGN ) halted its phase 3 clinical trial for ganitumab in August because it didn't prove to be more effective than Gemzar.Threshold Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: THLD ) announced in September that its drug TH-302 failed to improve overall survival rates for pancreatic cancer patients, although TH-302 did improve progression-free survival.
Any good news that gives hope for these patients is news we can all love.
2. More hope for investors
The second reason you should love the good news about Abraxane pales in significance to the first reason. However, I think it is one worth mentioning. The second reason is that investors can find hope in Celgene's news.
Why? Let's face it, the overall market probably won't be all that hot for a while. We've got the so-called fiscal cliff, continued high unemployment, the European financial mess, and CEOs warning of difficulties ahead. Yet there's at least one sector with individual companies that can thrive even in the midst of these challenges. Of course, I'm talking about biotech.
Celgene's announcement epitomizes why biotech investments can be successful despite overall market conditions. Based on the phase 3 results, the company plans to move forward with seeking marketing approvals. The pancreatic cancer market could ultimately generate an additional $1 billion in annual sales worldwide. Considering that Celgene's revenue over the last 12 months was $5.3 billion, that's significant.
More hope ahead
There's reason for more hope ahead.
For pancreatic cancer patients, the hope is that no roadblocks emerge with an expeditious approval of Abraxane. For investors in Celgene, the hope is that Abraxane will gain approval for treating melanoma, that apremilast will be approved for treating psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis, and that pomalidomide will be approved for myeloma.
But for now, good news is, well, good news. Pancreatic cancer patients appear likely to have help on the way. Oncologists might finally have a better treatment to use. Celgene shares jumped nearly 6% in early morning trading. Will the rise continue? I think so. And I hope so.
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