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Talimogene laherparepvec (OncoVex) – Top 10 Late-Stage Cancer Drugs – 2012

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Developer: Amgen (Acquired from BioVex in 2011)
Lead indication: Melanoma
Key date: Phase III data to be revealed this year

We're still waiting for Amgen ($AMGN) to reveal results from its Phase III study of the immunotherapy talimogene laherparepvec in patients with advanced melanoma. In a January presentation, CEO-to-be Robert Bradway highlighted the expected release of the data from the study among major events to watch this year at the Thousand Oaks, CA-based biotech giant.

Whether to keep this program on our top 10 list of programs was a close call; it's been years since we've seen the impressive mid-stage trial data, which helped drive Amgen's decision last year to scoop up the drug's developer, BioVex, in a deal that could be worth $1 billion. And Amgen opted to terminate a late-stage study of the drug in patients with head and neck cancers last year, according to ClinicalTrials.gov. Other non-melanoma studies involving the drug appear to be idling.

Nevertheless, melanoma remains a major public health concern, with the Mayo Clinic recently finding that rates of the deadly skin cancer were up among young adults and young women in particular. And Amgen's talimogene laherparepvec has shown promise, albeit in a small mid-stage study, to be able to wipe out melanoma in some patients.

Amgen put down $425 million in cash to acquire BioVex, and the results of the Phase III for OncoVex in melanoma will shed light on the question of whether the risky bet will pay off. In the meantime, protect yourself from those UV rays, folks.