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Update June 6. The spring/summer meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology is the occasion of the year for drug companies reporting new research on cancer treatments. This year Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) has had a great meeting with a research report showing that in a trial of patients with the most common and often deadly form of lung cancer 39% getting a mixture of Opdivo and Yervoy saw their tumors shrink after treatment. A second group that got Opdivo but with a smaller dosage of Yervoy saw a 47% improvement rate. (Lung cancer is the most deadly cancer in the United States and kills more than 158,000 people every year.) The results of the trials advances Bristol-Myers’ Opdivo as a key foundation for multi-drug combinations for the treatment of cancer and especially for patients with high levels of PD-L1, a protein that helps suppress the immune system. Opdivo belongs to a class of drugs known as checkpoint inhibitors that are designed to shut down some of the mechanisms that cancer cells use to evade the immune system. Imuno-oncology is one of the fastest growing and most promising areas of cancer drug research. By 2022 immuno-oncology drugs are estimated to make up a $34 billion sales market, according to Credit Suisse. That investment bank estimates that Bristol Myers has 38% of the immune-oncology market. (Roche has 23%, Merck 20%, AstraZeneca 12%,and Pfizer 7%, according to Credit Suisse.)
The strong meeting follows on strong financial results from Bristol-Myers for the first quarter, reported on April 28. Sales of $4.39 billion beat Wall Street consensus projections of $4.2 billion. Earnings per share of $0.74 were well ahead of the Wall Street consensus at $0.63 a share. Bristol-Myers increased its 2016 full-year guidance to a midpoint of $2.55 a share from $2.35 a share. As of June 6, I’m raising my target price for Bristol-Myers to $81 a share from my prior target of $76 a share. The stock closed at $74.29 today, June 6. The shares now trade at a pricey 29 times projected 2016 years peer share but if earnings projections are correct that multiple will drop to 22.4 in 2017. Bristol-Myers, a member of my Jubak Picks portfolio, is up 16.04% since I added it to the portfolio on January 22, 2016. The shares carry a 2.05% dividend.