ASCO abstracts flag new data on the hottest cancer drugs

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Medco has just put out a new report taking a look at the cancer drug pipeline, counting more than 900 experimental treatments now being studied. That makes cancer the biggest disease category in the drug development world, which is not too surprising given the high prices that newly approved oncology treatments can command. And the market dynamics won't go unnoticed at this year's annual ASCO meeting, where analysts are avidly tracking some of the most promising programs in biotechnology.

Among the slew of abstracts published last night, AstraZeneca drew close scrutiny on olaparib, a PARP inhibitor which staved off death or tumor growth by close to four months for advanced ovarian cancer cases. As Dow Jones notes, following the failure of Sanofi's BSI-201 study new doubts have been raised about that particular class of drugs.

Underscoring those doubts, Sanofi will be reviewing data demonstrating that a combo therapy of BSI-201 and chemotherapy delivered an average overall survival rate of 11.8 months compared to 11.1 months for patients receiving only chemo--a statistically insignificant difference.

PARP inhibitors have "gone from a darling of the field...to one where people are shaking their heads and wondering, 'Do we even have a validated target here?'" Mace Rothenberg, Pfizer SVP, tells Dow Jones. The business news service also highlighted studies on cabozantinib, a closely watched drug for hard-to-treat cancers. At the mid-stage point the drug helped delay metastasis, reduce pain and ease anemia.

Ariad and Merck, meanwhile, are updating the data profile on ridaforolimus on extending progression-free survival for advanced sarcoma. An application on the drug is expected later this year.

- here's the Dow Jones report

ALSO: Another cancer program to attract the spotlight this morning belongs to Roche. Investigators report that a combo treatment of MetMab and Tarceva tripled the survival rate of lung cancer patients whose tumors had high levels of Met. Patients with low levels of Met saw their life expectancy drop. Roche--which has a major initiative underway for diagnostics--says it plans to market the treatment with a test that can identify patients who would benefit the most.

- here's the story from Bloomberg
- here's the report from Reuters

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