Today, Friday 4th of February, is World Cancer Day, on this day the aim is to raise awareness on the fight against cancer. Promoted by the World Health Organisation, the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the International Union Against Cancer. The main objectives of this day are to acknowledge, and to mobilise society to make progress in the prevention and control of this disease.
There were 19.3 million new cancer cases worldwide in 2020, the International Agency for Research on Cancer estimates. By 2040, that number could increase by about 50 percent to 30.2 million people. “The search for new, better therapeutic methods is in full swing. Especially in the field of cell therapy, a dynamic development can be expected,” says Noushin Irani, portfolio manager of DWS Biotech, on the occasion of the 22nd World Cancer Day on February 4.
One promising approach is CAR T cell therapy. This involves specifically modifying an immune cell (T cell) by importing a certain gene so that it recognizes tumor cells when returned to the patient and destroys them. Currently, she says, there are less than a handful of products used exclusively in the fight against blood cancers. “However, the range of applications and the number of products are likely to increase in the near future,” the biotechnology expert predicts.
The market potential is correspondingly good. “A sales volume of $10 billion to $20 billion could be achievable in the next seven to ten years, a significant increase on the $1.6 billion expected this year,” Irani says. Research on mRNA vaccines related to the fight against Covid-19 has also advanced cancer therapy.
“Because so many people have already been vaccinated against Covid19 with mRNA vaccines, an extremely large database on the technology has emerged in a short period of time, which could also be used for cancer research,” the biotechnology expert says. Cancers such as blood cancers and lymphoma are already partially curable. In addition, new cancer drugs, particularly in connection with immuno-oncology, have led to a significant increase in average life expectancy after a cancer diagnosis in the last ten years. Further improvements can be expected as a result of ongoing research.
What funds invest in the fight against cancer?
Every day more companies are researching in order to find a cure for cancer and save lives. We wanted to bring together some of the investment funds currently investing in the fight against cancer, and we wanted to see why it is so important investing in this area. The good thing about investing in this type of fund is that, in addition to helping cancer research, as well as other diseases, it is a sector with good returns potential.
Candriam Equities L Oncology Impact
Rudi Van de Eynde, Head of Thematic Global Equity, and portfolio manager of the Candriam Equities L Oncology Impact
How would you define the fund strategy?
Candriam Equities L Oncology Impact is an equity fund that invests globally in companies involved in the fight against cancer.
The investment universe is focused on companies with a market capitalisation in excess of $100M and which offer a significant contribution to cancer treatment in these 4 broad areas:
- Diagnostics and research
- Pharmaceuticals and biotechnology
- Medical technology
- Big Data and Artificial Intelligence
The fund’s portfolio is made up of between 30 and 60 high conviction stocks. Finally, as its name suggests, it is an impact fund because of the following fact 10% of the net management fee is donated to cancer associations in the various countries in which we are present. In the case of Spain, this donation is made to the Spanish Cancer Association.
Why invest in this theme?
Global spending on cancer therapeutic and supportive care is projected to increase to $241 billion by 2023. This corresponds to an annual growth rate of 11%. On the demand side, the main driver of cancer growth is the ageing of the world’s population. About 9 out of 10 cancer cases occur in people over 50 years of age. As the ageing of the population increases – experts predict that the percentage of people over 65 will double by 2050 – the threat posed by cancer will increase in parallel…
Over the next 20 years, the number of cancers diagnosed worldwide is expected to increase significantly. Investment in medical research and technology is therefore more essential than ever. Cancer is now the second leading cause of death in the world. Globally, it is estimated that the number of cancers diagnosed will increase by more than 70% by 2040.
The sector will continue to benefit from:
- World population growth
- Increasing life expectancy
- Rising middle classes in emerging countries
- Strong investments in R&D as well as innovation of these companies
- M&A processes due to increased visibility on company figures and growth expectations
Janus Henderson Global Life Sciences and Biotechnology strategies
Andy Acker, Portfolio Manager of the Janus Henderson Global Life Sciences and Biotechnology strategies
Cancer is the number 2 cause of death worldwide and nearly 40% of us will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in our lifetime*. We are spending trillions of dollars every year trying to treat it and it’s one of the biggest problems we try to address. Recently a new drug targeting a common mutation found in tumours represented a breakthrough in cancer therapy. It is the first oncology drug targeting so-called KRAS mutations.
The drug belongs to a growing class of targeted cancer therapies with the potential to dramatically improve patient outcomes. These new therapies target specific driver mutations in cancer, such as KRAS, leading to more effective and better tolerated medicines that can prolong both survival and quality of life. Such specificity is the future of cancer treatment and is being made possible by advances in technology.
As more areas of medicine face generic competition, research efforts have pivoted toward oncology and other disease categories with high, unmet medical needs. At the same time, the cost of genetic sequencing has dropped from roughly $1 billion in the early 2000s to a few hundred dollars today, leading to a boom in genetic disease research, including cancer. The net result has been a dramatic rise in new cancer therapies, which made up more than 30% of all novel drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in recent years.
We believe this pattern is likely to continue, with important implications for biopharma. At the same time, the pharmaceutical industry is recognising the growth potential, spending billions of dollars on research and development, partnering with developers and acquiring biotech firms pioneering much of the research.
As a result, while revenues for some blockbuster drugs have started to decline as generic competition ramps up, biopharma oncology sales have exploded.We expect the trend could continue over the next decade, particularly as big data and machine learning capabilities improve, new drug targets are discovered, and a growing middle class around the globe – much of which is aging – increasingly seeks new cancer treatments. In our view, large pharmaceutical and biotech companies that integrate targeted cancer approaches into a diversified pipeline of new medicines could bolster their growth, offsetting the negative impacts of patent expirations and potentially surprising investors.
The Janus Henderson Global Life Sciences strategy seeks to uncover opportunities that span the life sciences spectrum, including stocks in the biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, healthcare services, and medical technology sub-sectors. Our deep, bottom-up fundamental research seeks to identify companies addressing unmet medical needs and those making health care companies more efficient. We believe these companies have the ability to generate shareholder value in any market. The experience of our team allows us to develop a deeper understanding of the companies we invest in from both a scientific and business perspective.
Our approach is balanced, with diversification across geographies, market capitalisations, and the sub-sectors within health care. We also use a value at risk (VaR) approach as part of a comprehensive risk management framework to mitigate the downside when investing in developmental stage companies.
*National Cancer Institute
BNY Mellon Investment Management: Intelligent treatments for the fight against cancer around the corner
What is the topic of smart treatments about? It is the future of healthcare and biotechnology. It’s a way of attacking diseases by directly targeting the genetics behind them. It is the technology on which some of today’s most powerful medicines are based. Gene therapy has the potential to cure less common and more exotic diseases, but also common diseases such as type I diabetes or multiple sclerosis.
In April 2003, one of the major milestones was reached when the Human Genome Project (HGP) was made public. After 13 years of research, a group of specialised scientists were able to list all human genes, allowing us to define the fingerprint of our genetic make-up. This and other advances have led the healthcare industry to face new challenges, including genetic treatments and robotics.
In fact, 72% of rare diseases have to do with genetic load and this is where the FDA, the American regulator, is putting all its research effort. These advances will help more than 300 million people suffering from rare diseases without a diagnosis. Most of these pathologies develop in childhood (70%). Hence the scientific interest in solving the enigma of genes and how they are controlled, how they interact and how they develop a disease.
The revolution lies in the fact that gene technology treats problems at the root, which is unique in the history of the pharmaceutical industry. It has the potential to treat chronic diseases with just one dose of medicine. Unthinkable a few years ago, considering that this would replace much of the current chronic treatments that regulate symptoms by administering periodic doses of medication.
We believe that smart treatments will help us move beyond medicines to palliate symptoms and start treating diseases at the beginning of their development. They are more effective and convenient than traditional treatments, which is why we believe market uptake will be strong. In addition, the high costs that we might face in principle are justified by savings in the long term, as the coming developments will also affect the collaboration between biopharma and pay-for-care. They will lead to flexible solutions that may involve a single fee or pay-as-you-go. Either way, these treatments will help save money and encourage the reimbursement system to evolve to benefit us all.