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Death, Taxes – and the "ASCO Effect"

It was Benjamin Franklin who coined the phrase "nothing is certain except death and taxes."

Had he been alive today, however, old Ben would've had to expand that list to "death, taxes and the 'ASCO Effect'."

Each June, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) hosts its annual meeting - an event that's attended by 30,000 people and hosts 4,000 presentations.

And like clockwork each year - in the six weeks or so that precede this venerable gathering - a small group of oncology stocks take investors with a pretty wild ride.

You see, a lot of these biotechs are still development-stage businesses, meaning they have no real sales or profits. But they do have lots of promise.

That makes them tough to value. And it also makes them speculative - in the sense that a whole host of catalysts can cause the shares to rocket in price.

With oncology biotechs, one of those potential catalysts is the ASCO meeting.

In the months before each meeting, members of ASCO's communication committee review about 5,000 research abstracts, and pick several dozen to present at the meeting. Once those are posted on the ASCO Website, investors pore through them and key on those with the most promise. The shares of those companies often enjoy quite a run, creating the torrid rallies that the weeks before the ASCO meeting are most-remembered for.

But oncology stocks in general seem to benefit from all the attention, and often enjoy big rallies, as well.

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