Analyst taps Bristol, Roche cancer immunotherapies for explosive growth

Cancer vaccines have so far generated more headlines than health benefits. Even some of the success stories, like Dendreon ($DNDN), have faltered once faced with trying to commercialize an oncology immunotherapy. Yet the vast potential means people continue to talk up the sector.

The latest to identify cancer vaccines for greatness is Citigroup analyst Andrew Baum. In a forecast, Baum predicts oncology immunotherapies--such as vaccines and therapeutic antibodies--will generate sales of up to $35 billion a year within the next decade. This would make it the biggest drug class in history, Reuters reports. To reach these heights, oncology vaccines and other immunotherapies must progress from being niche treatments today, to dominating oncology by 2023. The Associated Press reports immunotherapies are currently used in 3% of oncology treatment plans. Baum predicts this figure will rise to 60%.

Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) is singled out as a driving force behind the meteoric rise. Baum expects cancer immunotherapies will generate more than $10 billion a year for Bristol-Myers by 2022. Bristol-Myers presented positive data for an immunotherapy in melanoma, kidney and lung cancer at last year's American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting. And the company followed this up last week with abstract data for the drug nivolumab that prompted Goldman Sachs to predict peak sales of $7 billion. The potential of nivolumab underpins Baum's decision to raise his price target for Bristol-Myers' shares by two-thirds.

Baum also raised his outlook for Roche ($RHHBY), a company he tips to prosper in the era of oncology immunotherapies. Roche presented abstract data for its hot prospect, MPDL3280A, ahead of this year's ASCO. In the Phase I study, the immunotherapy significantly shrank tumors in 21% of 140 patients with advanced melanoma, lung cancer or kidney cancer. Most of these patients continued to respond, in some cases for more than a year after starting treatment. 

- here's the Reuters article
- check out the AP's take
- read up on Bristol-Myers Squibb's drug
- and Roche's candidate

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