Roche, GSK melanoma drugs in ASCO's "hottest" spotlight

With Roche eager to discuss at ASCO how its closely-watched melanoma drug vemurafenib--in-licensed from Plexxikon--extended the survival of patients in a key study, Bloomberg takes an in-depth look at the leading experimental drugs in the field. In addition to vemurafenib, which has already registered some jaw-dropping data, Glaxo's GSK2118436 is also likely to get star billing at ASCO. Combine those two drug advances with the recent approval of Bristol-Myers Squibb's Yervoy and you have set the stage for some dramatic pronouncements on brightening prospects for patients.

"The science has exploded," Dana-Farber's Stephen Hodi tells Bloomberg. "We are entering a golden age of melanoma therapies."

While some might find that comment a tad hyperbolic, doctors are clearly eager to get their hands on a variety of new treatment options for melanoma patients, who frequently face bleak prospects once the disease advances. The hope is that these new therapies can buy time by either training the immune system to fight the cancer or target specific groups with specific genetic profiles.

"There is no doubt that melanoma is the hottest cancer in oncology," noted Antoni Ribas, a UCLA investigator who has long been involved with the investigational work for vemurafenib. "It is a triumph of science translated to patients with unprecedented benefits."

The stakes are also very high, which is one reason why GSK and Roche are so ambitious. BMS's Yervoy is expected to earn solid blockbuster revenue of $1.5 billion. And Bloomberg quotes analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein estimating vemurafenib income at about $800 million in 2015.

- here's the story from Bloomberg