Thyroid cancer is the fastest growing cancer in America.
Incidences of thyroid cancer have more than doubled since the 1970s and rising.
This is a big problem. The thyroid plays a major role in managing the body’s delicate balance of hormones. So when something goes wrong with it, there’s a ripple effect leading to all sorts of more problems.
But technology is stepping in to address one of the big issues surrounding thyroid cancer and the hundreds of thousands of new suspected cases of it each year.
The technology is better, cheaper, safer and part of a much broader trend that’s set to pay off for early investors for years to come.
Overdue for Innovation
Detecting thyroid cancer is pretty simple.
The process starts with the identification of a lump -- called a nodule -- on the thyroid gland.
About half a million of suspicious thyroid nodules are detected each year. All of them require further testing.
The first phase of testing the nodule is done through a fine needle aspiration (FNA). This is biopsy taken by inserting a small needle (similar in size to a regular shot you’d get in the arm) into the nodule and extracting tissue from it.
The nodule’s tissue is then screened to determine if it’s benign or malignant.
The FNA process seems simple enough. And it is. It has been a common practice since the early 80s.
But the problem with FNA is not that it’s old, it’s that its results are what you’d expect a 30-year old medical process to produce. In other words, not good.
The American Thyroid Association has found between 15% to 30% of the FNA results are indeterminate. They are neither good nor bad. They determine nothing. So more advanced test is needed.
These indeterminate cases (between 40,000 and 150,000 a year) need to be referred for surgery.
This surgery is purely diagnostic. It’s used only to determine whether the nodules are benign or malignant. It costs about $20,000 on average.
Here’s the thing though. About 80% of those diagnostic surgeries turn out to confirm the nodule is completely benign.
That seemingly good news means there are literally tens of thousands of thyroid surgeries each year which would completely unnecessary if there was a more effective test than FNA.
A Win-Win-Win Proposition
The better test has come. And it’s backed by some big money too.
Recently, pharmaceutical giant Sanofi (SNY) announced a partnership with Veracyte (VCYT) to market and promote the latter’s patented thyroid cancer test.
The potential growth resulting this deal and the details surrounding it are critical for anyone worried about thyroid cancer or looking to invest in the next leg of the healthcare bull market.
As you should expect, your editor has done most of the legwork to uncover the details. But I have to warn you, this is where the story gets a bit complicated. So I’ll make it as simple as possible.
Veracyte created the Affirma Thyroid Analysis system. It’s a molecular diagnostic system (sound familiar?) which takes the sample initially retrieved by the FNA and looks at the 142 gene identifiers associated with thyroid cancer to determine if the nodule is benign or malignant.
Basically, Affirma looks at the genes to see if it’s cancerous.
It’s more accurate than the past methods. It’s accuracy reduces many of 100,000+ potentially unnecessary thyroid diagnostic surgeries.
At $20,000 a piece for those surgeries, the genetic test a big money saver for patients and their insurance companies.
Overall, the new test is a major innovation and it’s an extra layer of discovery capability that’s going to save lives, time, and money. The perfect combination you want in any healthcare product.
This is where Sanofi comes in.
The French pharmaceutical giant bought out Genzyme for more than $20 billion back in 2011.
The deal got a traditional pharma company like Sanofi directly into the cutting edge genetic treatments and diagnostics that Genzyme was pioneering.
Genzyme has a number of genetic and other advanced, high-tech treatments on the market when it was bought. One of those was Thyrogen, a replacement for the the hormones produced by the thyroid gland.
Basically, Sanofi, through it’s purchase of Genzyme, became a leading player in the thyroid medicine market.
And Sanofi’s deal with Veracyte, a much smaller company currently with a market cap of less than $200 million and without the distribution might of a $120 billion Sanofi, gives both companies a stronger, mutually beneficial foothold in the thyroid market.
Sanofi already has a big foot in the door for treating thyroid problems. Veracyte’s Affirma test has the potential to be used in testing hundreds of thousands of thyroid cases each year. And thyroid cancer and related incidences is the fastest growing cancers in America.
It’s a perfect fit for everyone. It’s a cliche, I know, but it really is a win-win-win.
More importantly, this entire situation shows the future importance of molecular diagnostics in medicine.
Although it’s still in the early stages, molecular diagnostics is making detection and treatment of many medical problems better, cheaper, and safer than was even imagined just a few years ago.
Best of all, there are some deep-pocketed pharma companies backing it all. They have spent billions developing it. They will make it big. Bigger than most anyone really anticipates right now.
If you ever wanted to get in on an explosive growth story early, molecular diagnostics is the sector to invest in today.
In tomorrow’s Profit Alert, we’ll look at one the biggest (and most profitable) stories to hit the molecular diagnostics market. We’re talking 1,000%+ gains here. You won’t want to miss it.