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Dallas Salazar
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Former FA with AIG and Merrill Lynch to wealthy clients and institutions who now runs a consulting firm servicing SMB's. I have 5 years experience in the financial industry and now trade my personal account. I am interested in using volatile small caps, leveraged ETF's, and the occasional option... More
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  • Senesco: How Understanding Death Could Cure Cancer 0 comments
    May 2, 2013 1:58 PM | about stocks: SVON

    It is an unfortunate fact of life that many of us know somebody who has been diagnosed with cancer. It takes many forms, doesn't discriminate, cannot be prevented, cannot be bought, bribed, or reasoned with. It cares not of your age, your social class, your race, your religion, your hopes and dreams, or your luck in life.

    It is an unfortunate fact of life that many of us know somebody who has been diagnosed with cancer, and often times, there is little hope or statistical data that one can lean on for support. There is little to cling to in the charts of life expectancies and talks of deteriorating health schedules.

    It is an unfortunate fact of life that many of us know somebody who has been diagnosed with cancer, but help might be on the way, and it might be closer than you think.

    Senesco Technologies Inc. (SNTI.OB)

    Senesco Technologies Inc (SNTI) is a development stage biotech company engaged in the development of products and technologies for human therapeutic applications to treat cancer. Their therapeutic candidate, SNS01-T, has been granted orphan drug status by the FDA and completed cohort 2 in its Phase 1b/2a clinical study on 4/22/2013 and is waiting on a Data Review Committee to give permission to proceed with cohort 3. SNS01-T is in the beginning stages of development and has many hurdles left to clear, but it may hold the key to making the phrases I started this article with a thing of the past.

    SNSO1-T - The killer you thank

    To understand the beauty behind the death SNS01-T causes you must first understand what exactly it is trying to help with and why it is necessary.

    Until recently the underlying cause of cancer was attributed to accelerated proliferation, rapid reproduction of a cell, leading to cell expansion and accumulation of tissue mass. Key regulators of cell cycle regulation are commonly altered in many tumor types which impacts the cells proliferation controls. Meaning the cells can reproduce without limits causing an unlimited amount of harm if left to go on for too long. Many current chemo treatments are designed to exploit these abnormalities to induce cytotoxicity to halt progression at the tumor. One of the disadvantages of this approach is that healthy cells can become damaged which can lead to a laundry list of side effects that have been well documented.

    Recent progress on the understanding of cancer and its etiology have expanded our interest in not just the cell proliferation but now also abnormal cell survival, or why the cells aren't dying. Senesco's recognition of this has lead it try to better understand and selectively trigger a process in cells called apoptosis in specific tumors and cancers. Remember, the primary goal of any therapeutic strategy is to manage the target cancer or tumor cells with limited damage to normal cell function. Apoptosis is the solution to bring death to the tumor cell without damage to normal cells. SNS01-T is the delivery method.

    If understanding how to control apoptosis is the answer, help me understand apoptosis

    Apoptosis is also known as programmed cell death and can be thought of as cell suicide. When apoptosis is triggered proteins called caspases go into action encouraging production of enzymes known as DNases which destroy the DNA in the nucleus of the cell. The cell shrinks, signals other cells called macrophages to engulf and then digest the cellular debris which prevents the shrunken cells from causing any damage to the body. Apoptosis is a normal regulatory function of cells. When cells recognize viruses and gene mutations, they may induce death to prevent the damage from spreading. When they cannot induce apoptosis is when big problems can arise and fast. That's where SNS01-T steps in.

    How SNS01-T works

    SNS01-T is designed to selectively trigger apoptosis in B-cell cancers such as Multiple Myeloma, Mantle Cell Lymphoma, and Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphomas. It is also readily modified to target other cancers and the company is working on adding liver cancer to this list. SNS01-T presents a billion dollar opportunity from the treatment of B-cell cancers alone.

    (click to enlarge)

    Two eIF5A proteins act as a biological switch to promote cell death or survival. The eIF5a pathway comprises the two most important proteins that function like a switch. One is Lysine on the left, the other is Hypusine on the right. Lysine, the one on the left, if it is allowed to accumulate in cells, induces cell death. This is the natural process called apoptosis. Again, apoptosis is used by the body to eliminate defective or redundant cells. Normally it doesn't accumulate in cells but is converted to Hypusine to promote cell survival, on the right hand side. This situation is fine in healthy cells as they are allowed to remain intact. In defective cells, Lysine is normally allowed to accumulate (inducing death) but doesn't. In turn the defective cell does NOT get eliminated, continues to grow, and the result is cancer.

    What SNS01-T does is throw the switch and flip the protein to the other side. The strategy is to downregulate the survival protein and switches the system inside the cell to introduce a death signal to trigger apoptosis in the cancer cell. It switches the cells from survival mode to death mode selectively without effecting normal cells.

    We understand the beauty behind the destruction. Where's the trade?

    When considering Senesco, you need to understand that this opportunity is literally as speculative as it gets. Essentially you have a company almost entirely dependent on a therapeutic candidate that is in the very early stages of development in a field that has had countless failures. When you couple that with the fact that this company will need cash, lots of it, sooner rather than later, the risk of owning this stock is about as high as any you will encounter. That being said, the company only has a market cap of 7.35mm and is at the bottom of its 52 week trading range of $.04-$.31. As of 05/01/2013 the stock is trading at $.05. The company also has an outstanding list of insiders including Christopher Forbes who owns 9% of the company and Dr. Harlan Waksal, who is the co-founder of ImClone which developed the prostate cancer drug Erbitux. If the company can find a way to further develop SNS01-T and continue to have success this could easily turn into a stock that returns multiple years worth of entire portfolio returns. I think owning a risk adjusted amount of shares in a long term bucket of your speculative sleeve in your portfolio could be a investment worth while.

    Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, but may initiate a long position in SNTI.OB over 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.

    Themes: long-ideas Stocks: SVON
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