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4 Top Biotech Stocks Waging the War on Cancer

These small companies are making big breakthroughs

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Isis Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ISIS) has five cancer treatments in clinical testing, including a compound in Phase III called TV-1011 that the company is developing in collaboration with Teva Pharmaceutical (NASDAQ: TEVA) and OncoGenex Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: OGXI). TV-1011 is designed to inhibit the production of clusterin, a protein associated with cancers that resist treatment, so it could make existing therapies more effective. TV-1011 has completed Phase II clinical trials in prostate, lung and breast cancer, and received Fast Track designation from the FDA for the treatment of progressive metastatic prostate cancer in combination with docetaxel.

In addition to TV-1011, Teva Pharmaceutical has two other cancer-related drugs in clinical trials. Teva and partner Gamida Cell are enrolling patients for Phase III testing of StemEX, which is used for patients with blood diseases such as leukemia and lymphoma who need a bone marrow transplant but cannot find a donor. StemEx modifies the level of free copper in cells to allow large-scale, self-renewal of stem/progenitor cells outside of the body. Stem and progenitor cells are fascinating because they have the ability to become other types of cells.

Teva has also partnered with privately held Curetech on CT-011, which is in Phase II testing. CT-011 is a humanized monoclonal antibody, a highly targeted form of therapy that, in this case, inhibits tumor growth and the spread of cancer cells. It is currently being tested for patients with certain types of lymphoma.

Also, Teva recently acquired Cephalon (NASDAQ: CEPH). In addition to an extensive pipeline of cancer drugs in development, Cephalon has a drug already on the market called Treanda, a treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). It is also approved to treat B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in patients that have not responded to other treatments. Treanda sales grew 77% in 2010 to $393 million. Cephalon also has Fentora and Actiq, which are not cancer treatments themselves but are used to manage “breakthrough” (meaning intolerable) pain in cancer patients.

Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ: GILD), as you know, is a leader in HIV and AIDS therapy, but it recently joined with the Yale School of Medicine to discover new cancer therapies. Gilead committed $100 million over a 10-year period to search for the genetic basis and underlying molecular mechanisms of many forms of cancer with a goal of developing new therapies based on their findings.

And Chinese pharmaceutical company 3SBIO (NASDAQ: SSRX) doesn’t have a drug that treats cancer directly, but it produces an important drug to manage the horrible side effects of chemotherapy. TPIAO treats chemotherapy-induced thrombocytopenia, a deficiency of platelets. This drug grew approximately 40% last year and is expected to grow another 20%-30% here in 2011.

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