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ASCO confab highlights immunotherapies, 'breakthrough' drugs and small victories

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CHICAGO--The showdown between Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) and Merck ($MRK) over a new PD-1 approach to spurring an immune response to cancer didn't disappoint. Our FierceBiotech coverage over the weekend highlighted some solid data on nivolumab from Bristol-Myers as well as Merck's lambrolizumab. Both emerged as premier late-stage oncology efforts, with teams racing to see which will be the first to score a regulatory approval.

After a disappointing start, immunotherapies have become the hot new thing in cancer drug development, so you can expect to hear plenty more about that in the years to come. But there was a lot more to cover at ASCO.

The "breakthrough" drug designation from the FDA earned a lot of discussion over the past two days, with regulatory officials on hand to publicly vow that they will work closely with investigators on accelerating chosen programs. But there's little tangible evidence of just how this will pay off for drug companies. There was another round of small, incremental steps forward in drug development, with investigators seeing new treatment strategies deliver added--though rarely spectacular--progression-free or overall survival benefits for patients. And developers went deeper down the path of dissecting each type of cancer into smaller and smaller patient groups as they get better at following disease pathways and genetic triggers.

Here's a handy guide to our weekend coverage.

More ASCO news from today follows below. -- John Carroll, Editor-in-Chief. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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