The oncology pipeline
In addition to expanding indications of existing drugs, Celgene Corporation (CELG) is also involved in developing and commercializing drugs for other types of cancers, such as lung cancer and pancreatic cancer. These pursuits will help the company reduce its over-reliance on hematology-related drugs like Revlimid and Pomalyst. The graph below shows Celgene’s research pipeline for solid tumors such as pancreatic cancer, lung cancer, and breast cancer.
Celgene obtained the compound Abraxane through its acquisition of Abraxis Bioscience. Abraxane has been approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) as the first human protein nanoparticle-based cytotoxic drug. Cancer tumors require nutrients to proliferate in the human body. Abraxane targets the natural biology and the nutrient pathway of these cancer tumors to deliver cytotoxic agents to them, killing the cancer cells. To know more about cancer and cytotoxic drugs, please refer to “Key Therapies for Cancer Will Determine Biotechnology’s Profits.”
Abraxane has been approved as a first-line treatment for non-small cell lung cancer, breast cancer, and pancreatic cancer. The drug is also being researched as a first-line treatment for triple negative breast cancer. According to National Breast Cancer Foundation, a diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer means that “the three most common types of receptors known to fuel most breast cancer growth—estrogen, progesterone, and the HER-2/neu gene—are not present in the cancer tumor.” Unlike other forms of breast cancer, triple negative breast cancer is difficult to treat. Hence, if the FDA approves Abraxane for this indication, it could pose tough competition to existing drugs, such as Bristol-Myers Squibb’s (BMY) Taxol, Roche Holding’s (RHHBY) Avastin, and Novartis’s (NVS) Buparlisib. Abraxane is also in approval phase in Japan for gastric cancer.
Celgene is also exploring a drug called CC-486, which is currently in phase I clinical trials, for the treatment breast cancer, nasopharyngeal cancer, and advanced NSCLC. Additionally, Celgene has other novel compounds, such as CC-223, CC-115, and AG-120, in preliminary research phases.
Investors can get exposure to Celgene’s expanded oncology pipeline while avoiding unique company risks by investing in the iShares NASDAQ Biotechnology ETF (IBB). Celgene makes up 8.66% of IBB’s total holdings.