3 Big Movers in Cancer Care -- Ariad Pharmaceuticals, Galena Biopharma, and Aratana Therapeutics

3 Big Movers in Cancer Care -- Ariad Pharmaceuticals, Galena Biopharma, and Aratana Therapeutics

One of the big movers in the health-care space in 2014 has been Ariad Pharmaceuticals . Shares in the biotechnology company that operates out of Cambridge, Mass., kicked off 2014 at $6.82, but on the back of a significant deal, shares hit $9.48 in the last week or so, before tailing off to close at $7.39 on Friday.

Certainly, 2014 has been a roller-coaster ride for Ariad shareholders!

The reason for the spike in the share price is news flow surrounding a leukemia treatment called Iclusig, with two pieces of positive news in the last couple of weeks.

The first was the announcement of the commercial availability of Iclusig for adult patients with chronic myeloid leukemia and Philadelphia-chromosome positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia in the United States. Ariad, therefore, began shipping Iclusig to Biologics, its exclusive specialty pharmacy, which is now filling prescriptions from physicians and distributing the cancer medicine to patients.

This news comes shortly after the FDA had stopped sales of the drug because of apparent dangers from life-threatening blood clots. In response, Ariad added new labeling and updated the prescribing information, meaning the drug is now back on sale.

In addition, Ariad also announced that it has given an Australian specialty-drug maker the rights to sell Iclusig in Australia. The deal is set to last for seven years, after which time Ariad has the option to take over the sales function or extend the agreement (under the terms of the current deal, Specialised Therapeutics Australia will be responsible for obtaining marketing authorization and pricing approval).

Although no financial terms from the deal in Australia have been released, it looks to be an encouraging step forward for the business, with shares responding accordingly.

Of course, Ariad isn't the only health-care stock whose share price has been highly volatile in 2014 as a result of news flow surrounding cancer drugs. For instance, Galena Biopharma's share price rose from less than $5 on New Year's Eve to hit more than $7 in less than three weeks, with positive news flow surrounding its oncology treatments.

Galena announced that the first patient had been enrolled in a phase 2 trial for GALE-301, which is targeted at high-risk endometrial and ovarian cancer patients. It also acquired Mills Pharmaceuticals, a biopharmaceutical company that specializes in the development and commercialization of targeted oncology treatments. Furthermore, Galena also announced a strategic partnership with Dr. Reddy's in India, which is focused on a commercialization partnership on NeuVax.

Clearly, cancer is a space where there is great demand for drug development. However, this is not just the case for human oncology patients, with shares in Aratana Therapeutics being a big mover in the last week because of encouraging progress made with a drug designed to treat T-cell lymphoma in dogs.

The drug was granted conditional approval by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to market the drug, although Aratana will run additional studies to further support its safety and effectiveness.

As a result, shares climbed from $18.76 at the start of the week to close at $21.51 on Friday -- a 15% gain.

So, with Ariad, Galena, and Aratana serving up a roller-coaster ride to the start of 2014, it has certainly been an interesting way to kick off the New Year for investors in those companies. Who would bet that the rest of 2014 will be any different?

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