Three Oncology Biotechs to Watch

Tickers in this article: CYTR GALE NWBO

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Oncology biotech stocks were among the best performers in the market in 2013. Even as the year drew to a close, stocks such as Galena Biopharma CytRx , and Northwest Biotherapeutics  delivered triple digit returns in just a few weeks' time.  Now that they have risen sharply, it is more important than ever to understand what has been driving the share prices and what will continue to influence their directions going forward. 

Here we'll is an overview of what these companies provide in terms of onco-drug technology. At present I have no position in any of these stocks and I am deliberately refraining from expressing any bull or bear opinions on any of these stocks. But I continue to focus on all three quite closely.

Galena Biopharma

Galena is noteworthy because it is attempting to bring to market a pain relief treatment ("Abstral") as well as a cancer intervention. Abstral launched in October 2013 and the company projects revenue of $40 million to $60 million within five years.

Galena also has a pipeline of oncology drugs that have piqued investor interest, all centered on key technology Neuvax.

Neuvax is a novel cancer immunotherapy which targets the HER2 protein, and has potentially promising results in Phase I and Phase II FDA trials. What makes Neuvax and other immunotherapies different from chemotherapy drugs is that instead of killing cancer cells with the HER2 protein directly, Neuvax trains the body's immune system to identify and kill cancer cells with the HER2 protein. Galena is currently running a phase III FDA multinational trial with 700 patients for the use of Neuvax in breast cancer.

Galena is also running a phase IIb trial that combines Neuvax with Herceptin by Roche.

Galena has other products further away from FDA approval including a controlled release formulation of anagrelide and a folate binding protein treatment for ovarian cancer.

Since early November 2013, Galena is up more than 100 % from roughly $2.25. There have been a number of recent developments. The company brought Abstral to market, it bought Mills pharmaceuticals, it signed several deals such as this one, and obtained equity research coverage from Oppenheimer.