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The Next Step in Cancer Therapeutics

Gilead Sciences just paid $11.9 billion to acquire Kite Pharma. At $180 a share, that price represents a 29.4 percent premium over Kite's closing share price on Friday, according to Reuters. 

Kite is one of the leading players in the emerging field of CAR-T therapy, and is competing with Novartis, Juno Therapeutics, and Bluebird bio to get the first approved therapy to market, the newswire adds. If approved, these drugs are expected to generate billions of dollars in profits. The FDA is expected to decide by Nov. 29 whether to approve Kite's CAR-T, axi-cel, for treatment of adults with advanced lymphoma.

For MIT's Technology Review, the huge price tag attached to the acquisition is a "clear sign" that Kite's genetic engineering approach to developing cancer therapeutics is the wave of the future.

But there may also be a problem, Tech Review says. The cost to patients, at least in the beginning, could be massive. "Just last week, Kaiser Health News ran a report on the potential pricing of the Novartis version of the therapy, and sources told it that it would 'cost a fortune,' proving to be 'a quantum leap more expensive than other cancer drugs,'" Tech Review notes. "No official pricing for such therapies has yet been published, but a figure of $649,000 for a one-off treatment has been deemed justifiable for young patients with leukemia by the UK's National Institute for Health and Care Excellence."

However, if the first treatment is a success, the costs may change over time as the technique proves useful in creating treatments for other forms of cancer as well, Tech Review adds.

Gilead CEO John Milligan certainly seems to think so. "We see it as a nice, sustainable oncology platform for decades to come," he tells the Wall Street Journal.

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