The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Juno Therapeutics, Kite Pharma, Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Celldex Therapeutics

For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL - October 15, 2015 - announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include the Juno Therapeutics, Inc. ( JUNO ), Kite Pharma, Inc. ( KITE ), Merck ( MRK ), Bristol-Myers Squibb ( BMY ) and Celldex Therapeutics, Inc. ( CLDX ).

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Here are highlights from Wednesday's Analyst Blog:

5 Stocks Working on a Cancer Cure Right Now

Cancer, a word capable of striking fear in even the strongest of hearts, is a malignancy characterized by the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells which, if not checked, can lead to death. According to the American Cancer Society, there are more than 100 types of cancer including breast cancer, skin cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and blood cancer.

Unfortunately, the prevalence of the disease is increasing due to a variety of factors - obesity, tobacco, infections, unhealthy diets, genetic mutations, hormones and immune conditions. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 589,430 cancer deaths in the U.S. this year or 1,620 people every day.

A major global health burden, cancer touches every region and strata of society. According to the American Cancer Society, about 14.1 million cancer cases (with 8.2 million deaths) were diagnosed in 2012 across the world and the rate of growth is alarming with 21.7 million new cancer cases (with 13 million deaths) expected in 2030.

Low- and middle-income countries are among the worst afflicted given the lack of medical resources and supportive health systems.

Improving Survival Rates

According to the American Cancer Society, the 5-year relative survival rate for all cancers diagnosed in 2004-2010 increased to 68% from 49% in 1975-1977. Factors like increasing awareness, earlier diagnosis and better treatments have helped improve these numbers.

Both biotech and pharma companies are intensely focused on bringing new cancer treatments to market and are striving to develop drugs that will change the treatment paradigm.

While traditional treatments include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, more recent treatments include vaccines, immunotherapy and targeted therapy.

Cancer immunotherapy or immuno-oncology is a hot therapeutic area that has been garnering a lot of interest and activity from both large as well as small/mid-sized pharma and biotech companies. These treatments hold huge commercial potential and have the ability to change the treatment paradigm.

The basic concept is to utilize certain parts of the immune system to fight the disease. This can be done by stimulating the immune system to attack cancer cells or immune system components may be introduced into the body. While some immuno-oncology treatments have the potential to be effective as monotherapies, others may be more effective when combined with other treatments.

Different types of immunotherapies include monoclonal antibodies/mAbs (man-made versions of immune system proteins which can be designed to attack a very specific part of a cancer cell), immune checkpoint inhibitors (recognize and attack cancer cells), vaccines (help prevent or treat cancer) and others that boost the overall immune system.

5 Stocks That Could Change the Treatment Paradigm

While big players like Roche, Novartis, Eli Lilly and Pfizer among others have a strong presence in the oncology market, let's take a look at some companies that are looking to change the way we treat cancer.

First on our list is Seattle, WA-based Juno Therapeutics, Inc. ( JUNO ). The company is looking to revolutionize cancer treatments by engaging the body's immune system to treat cancer. Juno is developing cell-based cancer immunotherapies based on chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) and high-affinity T cell receptor (TCR) technologies - the goal is to activate a patient's own T-cells to recognize and kill cancer cells.

According to the company, genetically-engineered T-cells have the potential to meaningfully improve survival and quality of life for cancer patients. Lead candidate, JCAR015, is currently in a phase I study in relapsed/refractory B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (r/r ALL) patients - data so far is encouraging and the company is looking to commence a pivotal phase II study in adult r/r ALL patients shortly that could support accelerated approval in the U.S. in 2017.

Kite Pharma, Inc. ( KITE ) is another company focused on the development of immuno-oncology treatments. Kite uses its engineered autologous cell therapy (eACT) to genetically modify T cells to express either CARs or TCRs. These modified T-cells are designed to recognize and destroy cancer cells. The Santa Monica, CA-based company has tied up with companies like Amgen and bluebird and could well see its most advanced pipeline candidate, KTE-C19, launching in 2017.

Amgen , one of the biggest and most well-known names in biotech, saw its immunotherapy, Blincyto, gain FDA approval in Dec 2014, making it the first approved drug that engages the body's T-cells to destroy leukemia cells. Amgen also has immuno-oncology focused collaborations with companies like Roche and Merck ( MRK ) for its experimental cancer treatment talimogene laherparepvec.

Bristol-Myers Squibb ( BMY ) is another company that has progressed significantly in the field of immuno-oncology. Both Opdivo and Yervoy are performing well and the company continues to work on expanding their labels. In fact, Bristol-Myers recently gained FDA approval for the use of Opdivo plus Yervoy for the treatment of a specific type of skin cancer - the company said that the approval is the first and only FDA approval for a regimen of two immuno-oncology agents for cancer.

While vaccines are yet to make a mark in the treatment of cancer, efforts to develop vaccines to fight cancer are ongoing. Some of the more common types of cancer in which vaccines are currently being studied include brain tumors (especially glioblastoma), breast cancer, melanoma, prostate cancer, lymphoma and lung cancer among others. Hampton, NJ-based Celldex Therapeutics, Inc. ( CLDX ) is a company that is working on a cancer vaccine for glioblastoma.

The company uses its technologies to develop targeted immuno-therapeutics comprised of protein-based molecules like vaccines, antibodies and antibody-drug conjugates that are used to treat specifics types of cancer or other diseases. Celldex's therapeutic vaccine, Rintega, is currently in late-stage development for a specific type of glioblastoma.

Cancer has always been an important focus area for pharma and biotech companies. With companies working on bringing improved treatments with fewer side effects to market, it may be a good idea to keep an eye on these stocks which have the potential to revolutionize cancer treatment.

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JUNO THERAPEUTC (JUNO): Free Stock Analysis Report

KITE PHARMA INC (KITE): Free Stock Analysis Report

MERCK & CO INC (MRK): Free Stock Analysis Report

BRISTOL-MYERS (BMY): Free Stock Analysis Report

CELLDEX THERAPT (CLDX): Free Stock Analysis Report

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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