“The Scientists Who Really Might Find a Cure for Cancer,” plus some thoughts on seismic, hospitals and hedge funds

An Agora teaser solution and other updates for the Friday File

By Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe, October 24, 2014

I’ve got a few thoughts for you on some companies I follow and own, and a little follow-up on last week’s chatter about hedge funds, but first I thought you’d like a quick teaser solution for your Friday File fun…

The pitch is for Stephen Petranek’s Breakthrough Technology Alert — there’s been some discussion recently about Patrick Cox on the biotech discussions helmed by Dr. KSS, and Breakthrough Technology Alert was the newsletter Cox used to run before he left to start a similar letter for John Mauldin. Like Cox before him, Petranek is a career journalist — he was editor in chief of Discover for several years, then ran a bunch of history magazines before coming to the newsletter world. His LinkedIn profile notes that when he ran at the Washington Post magazine (which is very good) decades ago, he used “advanced storytelling techniques,” so he’s going to fit right in at Agora.

What caught my eye was that Petranek, in one of the free Agora emails, was quoted on a cure for cancer:

“For the first time in my adult life, I am actually optimistic we may be looking at a cure for cancer — not treatment, a cure.”

So that sounds pretty good, right? I know there are thousands of researchers trying to find or develop a cure for cancer, but, well, we’re not there yet — so who does he think is on the verge? Here’s more from the email:

“Stephen is on to a company ‘developing a technology that can take the T cells in your body, those killer cells in your immune system, and re-engineer them to find cancer cells and kill them. They can teach your body’s own cells to seek out and destroy tumors.’

“Now, if you’re hip to the science of cancer, you’re probably a bit skeptical: ‘Immunotherapy’ to fight cancer has a long and disappointing history — 40 years’ worth, in fact.

“This new therapy is something else altogether. It works like this: Doctors take blood from a cancer patient and put it in an extremely high-tech version of a test tube. In the test tube, T cells are withdrawn from the blood and re-engineered so they can identify and attach to a specific kind of cancer that’s growing in that patient.

“‘The new T cells are infused into the patient,’ Stephen goes on, ‘where they multiply, proliferate and grow.’ The process takes all of six days.”

The ad then uses a photo that shows before and after scans of a 47-year-old patient with non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, showing remission, which looks very impressive… and I can tell you the photo shows the effect of Brentuximab Vedotin from Seattle Genetics (SGEN), photos that generated a lot of interest when they appeared in the Daily Mail in the UK last Winter. But Petranek is not touting Seattle Genetics, the quote about the photo says that “the patient was treated with engineered immune system T cells much like the ones this company is working on.” (my emphasis)

And that&