* Genomic Health CEO says goal is to be profitable in 2009
* Sees 2008 full-year revenue of $105 million-$110 million
* Expects to launch gene-based colon cancer test in 2010
* Shares close down nearly 4 pct
By Susan Kelly
CHICAGO, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Molecular diagnostics company Genomic Health Inc (GHDX.O) is hoping to turn a profit this year, as more breast cancer patients receive its test for disease recurrence, its chief executive said on Tuesday.
“One of our milestones for 2009 is moving the company closer toward profitability,” Popovits said in an interview. “It would be a goal to get there this year.”
The company, which recently added 20 new representatives to its sales force, expects its growth to come from expanded use of its gene-based test, which is now reaching about half of the early-stage breast cancer patients for whom it is intended, Genomic Health Chief Executive Kimberly Popovits told Reuters.
The company continues to expect to report full-year 2008 revenue of $105 million to $110 million, Popovits said. Its sole product on the market, the Oncotype DX breast cancer test, generated revenue of 28.1 million in the third quarter, up 78 percent from the year before.
Fueling the growth is improved insurance reimbursement for the pricey test, which analyzes a woman’s genes to forecast which patients are likely to experience a recurrence of the disease and should therefore receive chemotherapy or avoid it.
Nearly 90 percent of insurers now cover the $3,820 test, which is recommended as the standard of care for most early- stage breast cancer patients.
About half of the 80,000 women who receive that diagnosis are getting the Oncotype DX test.
“Our job going forward is to make sure that all women who could benefit from it get it,” said Popovits, who is also company president and assumed the mantle of CEO this year after serving as president and chief operating officer.
“We believe there is 50 percent of the market that’s still out there,” she said. “As the product gains more and more acceptance, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to grow that penetration nicely in 2009.”
Chemotherapy benefits just four of every 100 patients with early-stage breast cancer, and those who do not need it can avoid its long-term toxic side effects, Popovits said.
Chemotherapy also costs $30,000 to $40,000 per patient. From a cost perspective, said Popovits, a test that can rule out the need for the treatment “is right-sizing chemotherapy.”
Genomic Health is also studying the test’s effectiveness in women whose cancer has spread to their lymph nodes, which affects about 40,000 patients each year, and in the approximately 60,000 patients diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS, the very earliest form of breast cancer confined to the milk ducts.
“We are not done with the breast cancer market,” Popovits said.
The company’s pipeline also includes molecular tests for colon, renal, prostate and lung cancer and early-stage melanoma. A test that is is intended to forecast which patients are at greater risk for recurrent stage II colon cancer is furthest along and likely to launch sometime in 2010, Popovits said.
Popovits said she is optimistic about the future of personalized medicine under the new administration of President Barack Obama and sees development of tests to more accurately diagnose disease as the solution to healthcare reform.
“We are spending way too much treating disease, when we could be doing it better. Where we want to get is, to get the right drug to the right person in the right dose,” she said.
The shares of Redwood City, California-based Genomic Health, which are up nearly 15 percent since November, closed down 77 cents, or 3.75 percent, at $19.78 Tuesday on Nasdaq. (Reporting by Susan Kelly, editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Andre Grenon)