ASCO Sneak Peek: ImmunoGen, Biogen Idec, Infinity Show Glimpses of Cancer Drug Data

5/15/09Follow @xconomy

Cancer is the one of the most intense fields of R&D in the pharmaceutical business, and if you need convincing, take a look at the enormous heaps of data that started appearing online last night.

The annual cancer drug data frenzy known as the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) got its official kickoff of sorts as it released thousands of brief summaries, known as abstracts, that serve as a preview of coming attractions at the group’s annual conference May 29 to June 2. This year’s meeting, to be held in sunny Orlando, FL, because it’s one of the few places with a big enough convention center, is expected to draw the usual crowd of 30,000 physicians, drug company executives, Wall Street analysts, and journalists who are seeking insights into what’s new and hot for the treatment of tumors.

There’s a reason for all this interest: there’s a lot of money to be made. The global market for cancer drugs, worth $66 billion in 2008, will grow to $84 billion by 2012, according to a report by Cowen & Company. Some 861 new cancer medicines and vaccines are now being tested in clinical trials by biotech and pharmaceutical companies, a record number, according to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturer’s Association.

Many of these products come from the Boston biotech cluster, and here’s a rundown from some of the drugs to watch from Bay State labs.

—ImmunoGen (NASDAQ: IMGN), the Waltham,MA-based company with technology to make a “souped-up” version of Herceptin for breast cancer, will have one of the highly anticipated presentations. This drug, called trastuzumab DM1, or TDM1, has been developed in collaboration with Genentech, now owned by Swiss drug giant Roche. It takes the hit antibody drug for breast cancer, marketed as Herceptin, and aims to make it more potent by attaching a potent toxin to it.

Preliminary results presented in December from 107 patients in a mid-stage clinical trial showed that about 40 percent had partial or complete tumor shrinkage after taking the drug. This happened … Next Page »

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