Fighting Cancer At The Root: VeraStem And Propanc Biopharma

Have you heard of cancer stem cells (CSCs)? They’re increasingly understood to play a key role in the way cancer forms and spreads, and certain publicly traded companies are deeply involved in understanding what they are and how to fight them, so that doctors can halt the dreaded disease in its tracks. Here we’ll compare and contrast two companies that equity investors can consider as they watch as CSC drug research and development gains steam: NASDAQ-traded Verastem, Inc. (NASDAQ: VSTM) and Propanc Biopharma, Inc. (OTCQB: PPCB).

Propanc is focused on making use of natural elements in the body to help fight cancer, specifically Pancreatic Enzyme Therapy. PRP has the dual effect of stopping tumor progression by genetically blocking malignant features of cancer stem cells and repressing the overall CSC population. The company already shown that a significant percentage of pancreatic CSCs did not survive post-PRP treatment in research, which is a strong indicator that PRP is an anti-CSC therapy. This is highly significant because suppressing CSCs reduces the risk of tumor recurrence, thus prolonging life. Propanc is a pure-play CSC stock, because the company puts all of its energy into the high-potential research field because of its transformative potential and high appeal to big pharma. The Australian company is available for trading via the over-the-counter bulletin board.

Massachusetts-based Verastem takes a broader approach to cancer therapy. Its researchers are working to reduce CSCs and boost anti-tumor immunity, among other approaches. The company has presented data indicating that the use of chemotherapy to fight cancer can actually lead to an increase in ovarian cancer stem cells (CSCs), making the tumor more aggressive and resistant to further treatment. Its products currently in development will likely be included in combination treatments. NASDAQ-traded VSTM shares fluctuated during 2018 from $3 per share all the way up to nearly $10, closing the year back down to $3. It is evident that the market isn’t quite sure what to make of the company, but there are profits to be reaped for sure.

Novel Cancer Approaches Gain Traction

Other companies taking novel approaches to cancer drug development include Bellicum Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:BLCM), which is developing immunotherapies for both cancer and inherited blood disorders, and Cellectis S.A. (NASDAQ:CLLS), whose technology raises the possibility of “industrial-scale” gene editing that could transform molecular medicine as a whole. Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:INO) demonstrated progress recently in using its checkpoint inhibitors to improve on the performance of Merck’s Keytruda and Opdivo from Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Big Pharma in Their Future: Watching CSC Therapies

Most pharma companies are watching from a distance as small biotech firms publish results about their CSC research. As mentioned above, combination therapies that improve efficacy and patient outcomes of existing drugs are worth a great deal to larger drug companies, meaning the CSC pioneers and their investors stand to win big when positive complementary results come in. Savvy market observers expect a bidding war once Phase II or III data hits the news, and indeed some pharma capital and private money has already flowed into the CSC space. Investor knowledge about confidence about CSC technology and companies that focus on it will also grow, leading to share price increases and more public listings on major exchanges.

OncoMed Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:OMED) has also presented positive data relating to its development of therapeutics that target cancer stems cells, and that company’s collaboration agreements with Bayer AG (Frankfurt:BAYN) and Celgene (NASDAQ:CELG) bear out the fact that big pharma is paying attention.

Investors should start to look for and see more and more activity by large companies that want to stake a claim in anti-CSC R&D by partnering with small biotechs that are trailblazing in their targeting strategy. Stay tuned.

The Wealthy Venture Capitalist is a series of industry-focused investment articles focused on showing everyday Investors new opportunities in rapidly growing, little-known stocks in 4 of the markets hottest sectors.

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