The real news on the cancer front is in the post below, but I have a few other things to take care of tonight, too. Yesterday's post on Imclone's stock price was not well-received over on the IMCL message boards on Yahoo, where I've picked up several of the usual responses. They include the standard-issue Dark Suspicions that I'm one of the Evil Stock Bashers trying to scare The Little Guys into parting with their beloved Imclone, presumably so my top-hatted overseers can scoop it up for a song.
Well, folks, the guy with the top hat who was scooping up Imclone when it was cheap is Carl Icahn, more power to him. I don't work for him, sad to say. He bought the majority of his stake, several million shares worth, below $20, and he's for damn sure not buying in at $70 a share - in fact, he's probably selling his shares to you.
On a slightly higher plane, one comment sums up several others that I've received:
"These guys are clueless. (Erbitux) works against a growth factor common in numerous cancers. What they do not comprehend is the fact that if it works against one, it works against many; and if it works late stage, it works early and middle stage too. They value Erbitux based only on its approval, as if it will never receive any other indication approvals. Like I said, clueless."
I'd like to point out to this fellow and the other Yahoots that, unfortunately for this argument, I do drug research for a living. Blogging most certainly does not pay my bills; Big Pharma does. And among the therapeutic areas I work in is cancer, giving me a reasonable familiarity with the field. I can state, then, with some assurance, that the commentator above is full of fertilizer.
Yes, the epidermal growth factor receptor is indeed common in many cancers. But its importance varies widely in different tumor lines, and widely among different strains of what superficially appear to be the same kind of tumor. The same goes for all the other cancer targets you can name. A more accurate restatement of the above person's doctrine would be: If it works against one, it might work against some others. Or it might not.
We're only beginning to figure out the details, and - this is important - they're not going to increase Erbitux's market share when we do. Read the next post below for more on this. Erbitux will pick up some off-label sales, sure, but it's not going to end up with a long list of approved indications that will push it into the stratosphere.
And why not? Well, don't let those shimmering waves of greed blind you to the facts: in their clinical trials, Imclone, BMS, and Merck-Darmstadt carefully picked the tumor types that would be expected to give the most robust response. That's how you get a drug approved, by going to the agencies with the best data you can get. Erbitux has already been tested in the areas where it's likely to gain the most market share and make the most profit.
And there are plenty more drugs breathing down its neck. Go on and hold that IMCL, guys, go ahead and mortgage the house to buy some more. Maybe you'll watch it go to $150; stupider things have happened. But I think that the odds are that you're going to wish you'd taken your profits in 2004.