According to research firm RNCOS, the number of newly diagnosed global cancer cases is expected to reach over 17 million by 2020. The U.S. is the largest market for cancer drugs.
Increasing Prevalence Calls for New Treatment Options
The increasing prevalence of cancer has created a need for new treatment options. Drug companies, as well medical equipment and supplies companies, across the world are focusing on treatment options for unmet needs.
One of the most common cancers is prostate cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, estimated new cases and deaths from prostate cancer in U.S. in 2013 will be 238,590 and 29,720, respectively. Prostate cancer is more likely to affect men over the age of 65. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men after lung cancer.
Prostate Cancer Prevention and Treatment Market
While prostate cancer is a serious disease, early diagnosis can increase chances of survival. BCC Research, in a market research report called "Prevention and Treatment of Prostate Cancer: Technologies and Global Markets", noted that worldwide market for the prevention and treatment of prostate cancer was valued at approximately $26.1 billion. BCC Research expects total prostate cancer market to reach $50.3 billion in 2017, with diagnosis and screening segment accounting for $17.4 billion of the total market and surgical and radiation therapy accounting for approximately $14.3 billion of the total market.
Brachytherapy Emerging as a Major Early Stage Treatment Option
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are among the treatment options for prostate cancer. An emerging early stage treatment option is brachytherapy, also referred to as internal radiotherapy. In this treatment, radioactive seeds or sources are placed in or near the tumor, which give a high radiation dose to the tumor. At the same time, the radioactive seeds reduce the radiation exposure in the surrounding healthy tissues.
A Major Player in Brachytherapy
C.R. Bard Inc. (NYSE:BCR), a designer, manufacturer, distributor and seller of medical, surgical, diagnostic and patient care devices, is one of the companies that offer brachytherapy products. Based in Murray Hill, New Jersey, C.R. Bard had reported net income of $530.1 million, or $6.16 per share for 2012. The company's net sales in the 2012 totaled $2.958 billion, up 2% over 2011. Oncology products accounted for over a quarter of the company's total net sales in 2012.
C.R. Bard's brachytherapy product portfolio includes Iodine 125 and Palladium 103 seeds. The company also offers implant and applicator needles, seed and linked-seed delivery systems and brachytherapy equipment.
An Emerging New Technology in Brachytherapy
Iodine 125 and Palladium 103 have been extensively used in prostate implant brachytherapy over the years. However, in recent years, Cesium 131 has also emerged as an option. Cesium 131 was introduced by IsoRay Inc. (NYSEMKT:ISR), a Richland, Washington-based developer, manufacturer and seller of isotope-based medical products and devices for the treatment of cancer and other malignant diseases.
Iodine 125 was the first isotope used in brachytherapy. Iodine 125 is still used in brachytherapy and delivers 90% of its radiation dosage to the patient over a period of 204 days. Palladium 103, which was developed later, delivers 90% of its dosage over 58 days. Cesium 131, meanwhile, delivers 90% of higher energy dosage to the patient in only 33 days.
Brachytherapy has emerged as a major treatment option in the fight against prostate cancer. Around 20% of men diagnosed with prostate cancer in the U.S. this year will choose brachytherapy for treatment. This number is expected to continue to rise as more effective treatment options are developed.
Major Players in the Advanced-Stage Prostate Cancer Treatment Market
In the U.S., over 90% of prostate cancers are detected in early stages. In the early stages, the 5-year survival rate for patients is close to 100%. However, the 5-year survival rate falls significantly (28%) if the cancer has spread. Immunotherapy, however, has emerged as a promising treatment option for advanced-stage prostate cancer.
Dendreon Corporation's (NASDAQ:DNDN) Provenge® was approved by the U.S. FDA in April 2010 as a new therapy for certain men with advanced prostate cancer that uses their own immune system to fight the disease.
Following the FDA approval, investors' expectations from Provenge were huge; however, high cost of treatment ($93,000) and reimbursement issues meant that initial acceptance of the drug was slower-than-anticipated. In the most recently reported quarter (Q4), Dendreon, whose only approved product is Provenge, reported net product revenue of $85.5 million. For the full year ended December 31, 2012, Dendreon's net product revenue totaled $325.3 million, compared to $213.5 million reported for the same period in the previous year.
In a conference call following the fourth-quarter results, Joe DePinto, EVP of Global Commercial Operations at Dendreon, noted that the company continued to see improvements on the reimbursement front during the fourth quarter of 2012.
New Jersey-based global biotechnology and drugs company, Johnson & Johnson's (NYSE:JNJ) Zytiga (abiraterone acetate) is another treatment option for advanced-stage prostate cancer treatment. Zytiga was approved by the U.S. FDA nearly two years ago for the treatment of late-stage castration-resistant prostate cancer in patients who have previously received chemotherapy.
In December last year, the FDA expanded the use of Zytiga by approving the drug for treatment of patients with late-stage castration-resistant prostate cancer prior to receiving chemotherapy.
In 2012, Zytiga sales totaled $961 million.
With a potential market counted in billions of dollars, the prostate cancer market can be a lucrative investment option for bio investors. Unlike the broader cancer market, this is a very small niche. However, unlike many types of cancer, prostate cancer is completely curable. So the scope for developing satisfactory medical treatment for this niche is enormous. With new technologies like Bracytherapy coming up in the market, bio investors should take another look at this sector.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.