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Roche (RHHBY - Analyst Report) recently launched a new laboratory test, Elecsys Calcitonin, to diagnose and monitor thyroid cancer. The test uses Roche’s cobas modular analyser platform and enables lifelong monitoring of medullary thyroid cancer patients who have undergone thyroid surgery.

Calcitonin has the unique ability to mark a tumor, which in turn helps healthcare professionals diagnose medullary thyroid carcinoma at an early stage. Hence, Elecsys Calcitonin is expected to be useful as a high concentration of calcitonin in the blood is generally related with the onset of thyroid cancer.

The calcitonin test along with other further examinations should support final clinic clearance. The early diagnosis should enable more effective treatment resulting in increasing patient survival.

The third most prevalent type of thyroid cancer, medullary thyroid carcinoma accounts for 5% – 10% of all thyroid cancers.

We note that Roche has key product launches lined up for 2013 in its Diagnostic Division with particular focus on oncology. Some of these include proGRP (diagnosis of small cell lung cancer), EGFR (supports therapy selection for non-small cell lung cancer), ER (immunohistochemistry tissue test for breast cancer diagnosis) and CINtec PLUS Cytology (immunocytochemistry test for diagnosis of cervical pre-cancer).
Earlier, in Mar 2013, Roche received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a next-generation viral load test.

The test uses a novel dual-probe approach and thereby provides an extra layer of protection in detecting and quantifying the hepatitis C virus (HCV). The test can precisely determine the level of hepatitis C virus ribonucleic acid (RNA), which in turn determines a patient’s response to antiviral therapy. Hence, the test enables better management of patients with chronic HCV infection.

Roche plans to ship the new HCV viral load test kit in the US shortly. In 2012, Roche launched HCV II, an immunoassay to detect hepatitis C infections.  The new HCV viral test is part of Roche’s diagnostic tests to diagnose hepatitis C infection.

Roche had launched several new instruments and devices in 2012 as well, to enable advances in lab automation, near patient testing and diabetes management along with expanding oncology, virology and metabolic test menus.  

However, Roche faces stiff competition from the likes of Novartis (NVS - Analyst Report) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK - Analyst Report).

Currently, Roche carries a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell), reflecting short-term pressure on the stock.  As of now, Allergan Inc (AGN - Analyst Report) looks well placed with a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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