"You have cancer." This diagnosis is a real shock for the patient and associated family and friends and occurs to someone in the U.S. most likely every minute. Even though cancer research is on-going and has made great strides, the diagnosis of cancer is and will stay an unwelcome surprise and it can happen to anyone.
Three standard methods of treatment for cancer are surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Ultimately, the patient makes the treatment decisions based on the doctor's recommendations, possible second opinions and other information gathered from qualified professionals.
Side effects of usual cancer therapies
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses of drugs to eliminate cancer cells. Unlike surgery, chemotherapy affects the entire body, not just a specific part. It works by targeting rapidly multiplying cancer cells. Unfortunately, other types of cells in our bodies also multiply at high rates, like hair follicle cells and the cells that line our stomachs. This is why chemo can cause side effects like hair loss and an upset stomach.
Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy uses certain types of energy to shrink tumors or eliminate cancer cells. It works by damaging a cancer cell's DNA, making it unable to multiply. Cancer cells are highly sensitive to radiation and typically die when treated. Nearby healthy cells can be damaged as well, but are resilient and are more able to fully recover. Both chemotherapy and radiation therapy also affect the immune system and leave patients with a compromised immunity system less able to fight cancer cells on its own or other secondary infections.
Because of these safety concerns among many others, science is constantly searching for gentler and safer alternatives to Chemo and Radiation Therapy. Standard medical procedure is not always the right way to achieve the goal, which is to be cancer free.
This article seeks to present readers with viable and solid investment-grade companies to capitalize on the evolution of cancer treatment. It will summarize companies specializing in Electro Cancer Therapy (ECT) and immunotherapy approaches to fighting this dreaded disease.
Electro Cancer Therapy
From the website of German's Dr. Baltins Praxis Clinic I found the following wrap up of Electro Cancer Therapy:
The use of electric current in the medicine has a long tradition which however.
Already in the 18th century the Italian Luigi Galvani researched the influence of weak electric current on organic tissue. The French dermatologist F. J. Darier (1856 - 1938) commented on the curing of malignant melanomas via percutaneously (through the skin) set needle electrodes with a few milliampere of current.
However, the inventor of the electro-cancer therapy , the doctor and electrical engineer Dr. med. Rudolf Pekar (1912 - 2004) from Bad Ischl, Austria, succeeded in finding a causal and highly effective treatment of solid tumors. Dr. Pekar researched the impact of galvanic current on cancer cells and carcinomas from the 1950s onward and refined the "percutaneous bio-electro therapy" and later the international "electro-cancer therapy" in tireless research work until his death in 2004.
There are different forms of administration of the electrical currents. Depending on the symptoms and the position of the tumor, there is the possibility of treatment with surface electrodes or with needle galvanization.
Needle galvanization employs galvanic electrical stimulation to treat tumors and skin cancers. ECT is used most often as an adjunct with other therapies. Using local anesthesia, the physician inserts a positively-charged platinum, gold or silver needle into the tumor and places negatively-charged needles around the tumor. Voltages of 6 to 15 volts are used, dependent upon tumor size. To enhance the cancer-cell-killing power of ECT, sometimes small amounts of chemotherapy agents are applied to the skin and driven into the tumor by a kind of sweating effect of the electric current ("iontophoresis"). ECT works by influencing the pH levels within the tumor and causing electrolysis of its tissue, which is more susceptible to direct current than normal tissue. The pH change depolarizes cancer cell membranes and causes tumors to be gently destroyed. The ECT process also appears to generate heat shock proteins around the cancer cells, inducing secondary cell-specific immunity. This process triggers Natural Killer cells, a welcome side effect triggering the immunity system into action additionally.
A similar method is called Electroporation. This approach causes a significant increase in the electrical conductivity and permeability of the cell plasma membrane caused by an externally applied electrical field. It is usually used in molecular biology as a way of introducing some substance into a cell, such as loading it with a molecular probe, a drug that can change the cell's function, or a piece of coding DNA.
Electroporation can also be used to help deliver drugs or genes into the cell by applying short and intense electric pulses that transiently permeabilize cell membrane, thus allowing transport of molecules otherwise not readily transported through a cellular membrane. This procedure is referred to as electrochemotherapy when the molecules to be transported is a chemotherapeutic agent, or gene electrotransfer when the molecule to be transported is DNA in nature.
Publically-traded Companies for Consideration to Capitalize on the ECT Approach
OncoSec Medical Inc (NASDAQ:ONCS) is positioned as a world leader with an electroporation technology platform to locally deliver clinically both proven chemotherapeutics (electrochemotherapy) and gene-based cytokines (electroimmunotherapy) for the treatment of solid tumor cancers.
While using different anti-cancer drugs, both techniques have shown selective destruction of cancerous cells and tumors in early-and late-stage trials, while sparing healthy normal tissue in the treated areas.
On May 29 the company issued a letter to their shareholders explaining that they are successfully executing towards their objectives for the year. Some highlights mentioned in the letter.
The company noted that it has initiated and enrolled several patients in a phase II study for the treatment of metastatic melanoma, called OMS-I100 and is expecting to report interim clinical data before year end.
The company has also initiated and enrolled several patients in a phase II study for the treatment of Merkel cell carcinoma, called OMS-I110 and expects to report interim clinical data before year end.
OncoSec said it is aiming to initiate and begin enrolling patients in a phase II study for the treatment of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL), called OMS-I120, by year-end.
Since the acquisition of a clinical data set of over 400 patients, OncoSec said it has compiled, reviewed and analyzed the data and presented preliminary results from a phase IV European head and neck cancer trial and phase I/II breast cancer trial.
The preliminary data sets from the completed phase III recurrent head and neck cancer studies carried out in the US are now being analyzed and the company said it intends to present the data at the 5th International Head and Neck Cancer Conference taking place July 21-25.
Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:INO) is engaged in the discovery, development and delivery of vaccines, called deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) vaccines, focused on cancers and infectious diseases. The company's SynCon technology enables the design of universal DNA-based vaccines capable of providing cross-protection against new, unmatched strains of pathogens, such as influenza. Its electroporation DNA delivery technology uses brief, controlled electrical pulses to increase cellular DNA vaccine uptake. Inovio's clinical programs include human papillomavirus (HPV)/cervical cancer (therapeutic), avian influenza (preventative), hepatitis C virus (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) vaccines.
Inovio has developed multiple generations of clinical grade, electroporation-based DNA delivery systems, which consist of electrical pulse generators and needle-electrode applicators. The company continues to advance next-generation product designs and intellectual property including patents to meet anticipated usability and economy requirements for emerging preventive and therapeutic DNA vaccines.
The immunotherapy treatment of cancer has become a more promising approach in the past decade. Developments in both basic immunology and tumor biology have increased our knowledge of the interactions between the tumor cells and the immune system.
Cancer vaccines, antibody treatments and other "immunotherapies" have the potential to be more targeted, more effective and less toxic than today's approaches to fighting this disease.
These approaches - sometimes called biologic therapy, biotherapy, or biological response modifier therapy - are being developed and tested right now in research laboratories and medical facilities around the world by scientists, doctors and other specialists in cancer immunology.
Cancer immunology holds promise to be the greatest medical achievement of our era. Many of the most exciting new approaches to preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer are coming from immunological research. These immunotherapies help the immune system to better recognize and fight cancer cells and control tumor growth. These emerging approaches, of which cancer vaccines are just one example, could be less invasive and painful for patients - as well as more effective and enduring - than current, traditional treatments.
Cancer immunotherapies aim to boost the immune system's ability to find and destroy cancer cells and control tumor growth. Some of these therapies stimulate the system itself to mobilize and attack. Other therapies give the body extra immune system components to fend off cancer more successfully.
According to the Cancer Research Institute, cancer immunotherapy research is being conducted in these key areas:
- Immune-based tools for diagnosing and treating cancers
- Therapeutic cancer vaccines that target tumor antigens
- Monoclonal antibodies that can lead chemotherapy medications to tumors by binding with tumor cell antigens
- Adoptive transfer of "T cells" to recognize and attack cancer human
- Vaccines to prevent infection by viruses that can cause cancer
These advances are made possible by remarkable developments in cancer immunology, including the identification of specific, highly promising cancer antigens; the confirmation of a measurable human immune response to such antigens; the creation of techniques for monitoring various aspects of the response; and the development of novel vaccine constructs designed to induce an effective immune response.
Publically-traded Companies for Consideration to Capitalize on the Immunotherapy Approach
Dendreon Corporation (NASDAQ:DNDN) is a marketing-phase biotechnology company that applies its expertise in antigen identification, engineering and cell processing to produce active cellular immunotherapy (ACI) product candidates designed to stimulate an immune response in a variety of tumor types. Dendreon's first product, PROVENGE® (sipuleucel-T), was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in April 2010. Dendreon is exploring the application of additional ACI product candidates and small molecules for the potential treatment of a variety of cancers.
Celgene Corporation (NASDAQ:CELG) is engaged in the discovery, development and commercialization of therapies designed to treat cancer and immune-inflammatory related diseases. It is engaged in research in several scientific areas that may deliver therapies such as those affecting intracellular signaling pathways in cancer and immune cells, immunomodulation in cancer and autoimmune diseases and therapeutic application of cell therapies. Its primary commercial stage products include REVLIMID, VIDAZA, THALOMID, ABRAXANE and ISTODAX. Additional sources of revenue include a licensing agreement with Novartis (NYSE:NVS), which entitles it to royalties on FOCALIN XR and the entire RITALIN family of drugs, the sale of services through its Cellular Therapeutics subsidiary and other miscellaneous licensing agreements.
Oncology drugs and therapies are very important and necessary. The American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting that just started will attest to that.
According to FiercePharma the top-selling cancer drugs Rituxan, Avastin and Herceptin-were approved in 1997, 2004 and 1998, respectively. So, they've been long-term earners for the big pharmaceutical companies. Genentech's Avastin had $2.66 billion in sales in 2011. Avastin has attracted a lot of attention over the past few years and not always for reasons Genentech would welcome. Its use as a breast cancer treatment, approved by the FDA under its fast-track program, but that came into question when the FDA released data from follow-up studies. The agency moved to pull that indication from Avastin's label and the ensuing controversy grew until an FDA advisory panel meeting erupted with emotional testimony from patients, doctors, scientists and advocacy groups on both sides of the fence. The FDA did cancel that approval late last year, but doctors can still prescribe it off-label.
Alternative cancer therapies are necessary and will likely become the standard of care for many cancers in the future. A great way to capitalize on the current and upcoming advancements is to consider the aforementioned companies and ascertain positions well before the masses do and await additional data and marketing approvals as they occur. The cancer treatment field is growing and changing daily. As these new methods are recognized and validated, existing shareholders could be enjoying a substantial ride up.