The American Society
of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting is one of the biggest annual events in the
healthcare industry. This weekend over 30,000 oncologists, educators,
industry leaders and investors will gather in balmy Orlando, Florida to review
the latest developments in cancer treatment.
Our team of analysts
conducted a review of the data abstracts to determine their impact on a range
of Biotech and Pharma stocks. Over the next four days we will see full
data from a number of clinical trials that could change the future of oncology
- Data around molecular profiling of patients will be discussed
and, with future validation, could allow physicians to determine the best
treatment options of targeted therapies in patient subsets and improve clinical
- Maturing biologics are now being tested in adjuvant setting in
an attempt to generate new avenues for growth.
Impact on Global
Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) could
take center stage as AstraZeneca, Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, and Roche release new
data on drugs targeting these indications.
- The picture isn’t pretty for AstraZeneca whose ZEST and ZEAL studies failed to
demonstrate superiority of Zactima over Roche and OSI’s Tarceva and Lilly’s Alimta in advanced
NSCLC patients. In addition, Zactima’s safety profile is not very robust
and could pose challenges in its approval.
- While Lilly’s Alimta has shown better efficacy than Tarceva, the
Tarceva+Avastin combo in NSCLC (data expected at ASCO) is likely to be a strong
competitor. Avastin, which has had success in KRAS wild type patients,
and Tarceva, which has had success irrespective of a patient’s KRAS status, may
compliment each other.
- Roche and OSI’s Avastin + Tarceva in maintenance therapy in NSCLC (ATLAS
study) met its primary endpoint (improvement in Progression Free Survival) and
we expect further details to be compelling. The extent of benefit on PFS would
be the key determinant for upside.
- GlaxoSmithKline’s Pazopanib has shown strong clinical efficacy in both naïve and
cytokine refractory patients with advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma. We
estimate positive upside when the full data is released as this drug could
potentially challenge Pfizer’s Sutent.
Rising Stars and
Innovative Approach to Drug Development
Rising Star (or unprofitable Biotech) technologies and novel target data
continue to breathe life into the oncology arena.
- Promising data from Seattle Genetics (SGN-35, PhI, Hodgkins
lymphoma) andImmunogen (trastuzumab-DM1, PhII metastatic
breast cancer, partner Roche) suggest that the value of Antibody drug
conjugate (ADC) technology is likely to unfold in the next few years. This
technology could provide an opportunity to 1) develop “better biologics”, and
2) become an important tool in life cycle management of existing
biologics. With Global Pharma companies facing patent expiry of their
blockbuster drug, we expect them to examine developing better biologics as a
- Data from a range of novel targets like c-Met, DR5, PARP,
IGF-IR, and IL-21 will be presented at ASCO, but our scientific team views
c-Met and DR5 as the leading targets which could evince interest at
ASCO. c-Met inhibitors could play a
role in disease stabilization but not improve overall survival. DR5, on the other
a Tumor necrosis factor receptor superfamily member and contains an
intracelluar death domain; Amgen’s DR5-inhibitor, AMG-655 is one to watch.
Impact on Mature
While Mature Biotech companies, like Genentech, were the movers and shakers of
past ASCO meetings, this year they will largely provide the particulars on
previously presented data.
- Amgen will see some positive traction as they highlight
favorable Denosumab data in bone health and cancer.
- Nexavar has propelled Onyx forward as the only approved
worldwide targeted therapy for HCC. However competition in HCC is on the
rise and additional Nexavar data in colorectal cancer is not sufficient to
dislodge Pfizer’s Sutent.
Evidence Based Medicine Coming of Age
Evidence-based medicine, driven by discovery, validation of key biomarkers, and
genetic profiling in different tumor types, is likely to determine the choice
of targeted therapy in the coming years. However, known targets like
EGFR, KRAS, and HER have already started to make an impact on the eligibility
of patients suitable for anti EGFR therapies (LLY/BMY’s Erbitux, AMGN’s
Vectibix, Roche’s Herceptin, etc.) Studies on various diagnostics and
prognostics markers, and further validation of these findings through clinical
trials over the next few years could redefine the treatment paradigm for drugs
like Erbitux (LLY/BMY), Avastin (Roche), Tarceva (OSIP/ROG) and Tykerb (GSK)
and set new standards for other targeted therapies.