NanoString Technologies (NASDAQ:NSTG) is developing diagnostics that, simply put, will govern medical treatment in the not-too-distant future. Such diagnostics will be integral to how doctors treat patients with conditions that have genetic markers.
NSTG recently announced that a European cancer focused medical journal published a "pivotal" study that validated NSTG's diagnostic tool. The tool categorizes patients' risk for recurrence (only with respect to a particular kind of breast cancer) and then doctors can tailor treatment accordingly. For example, "low risk" patients are unlikely to benefit from additional chemotherapy. The study showed that the tool achieved "Level 1 Evidence, the standard typically required for inclusion in cancer treatment guidelines."
This news is extremely promising, not just for NSTG, but for the future of medicine and humanity. Using a tissue sample, NSTG's tool can give doctors a glimpse into a patient's future such that they can avoid costly and unpleasant treatment (or follow-up treatment) where it is not truly necessary. I expect this type of diagnostic to become standard in the future, once we discover the necessary science.
This type of genetic diagnostic is cost effective, or will be soon enough. In a world where healthcare costs are spiraling out of control and politicians, insurers, practitioners, and patients are scrambling to find cost savings particularly with regard to protocols for unnecessary diagnostics or procedures (one major reason our healthcare costs are higher compared to other countries' costs - we're gluttons for unnecessary treatment and attention), this tool and others like it will be welcome additions to standard treatment protocols.
It goes without saying that nearly any patient, given actionable and accurate information about their low risk of recurrence, would opt out of continued treatment, particularly if such treatment had a minimal effect on their health. Cancer treatment is notoriously unpleasant, ripe with risks and burdens patients with a low quality of life. It is also extremely expensive, not necessarily to patients, but to "the healthcare system" as a whole.
The only people not rooting for this type of biotechnology, welcoming its success with open arms and hoping for its inclusion in treatment protocols, are pharma and other biotechs whose costly products doctors might avoid with the clarity provided by this type of genetic diagnostic. I won't lose any sleep over sad pharma execs though. After all, accuracy and efficiency are good things worthy of embrace, and they provide a net gain to society and humanity.
Disclosure: I am long NSTG.
Additional disclosure: I am currently long NSTG, and I plan to go even longer.