The 2012 New York ASCO Checklist

5/24/12Follow @arleneweintraub

On June 1, cancer scientists and drugmakers will flock to Chicago for the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). The gathering is so prominent that many pharmaceutical companies hold off on releasing data from their clinical trials until the conference. This explains why ASCO is as important to Wall Street folks as it is to the oncology community: Any company that makes a splash at ASCO is likely to see its stock boom.

Here are some of the publicly held NYC-area companies that will be presenting news on their cancer compounds at ASCO.

Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY)

Bristol-Myers is planning ten oral presentations on its cancer pipeline at ASCO, but investors will likely zero in on BMS-936558—a promising drug candidate in a class called anti-PD-1. The company is testing the drug in a range of cancers and will be presenting data from clinical trials in advanced non-small-cell lung cancer, metastatic melanoma, and renal cell cancer. The abstracts of the trials have already generated some buzz: In lung cancer, for example, the drug elicited a response rate of 19 to 28 percent, which is considerable better than the 8 to 11 percent rate typical of existing therapies.

Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG)

The drug to watch from Celgene is pomalidomide, which the company recently submitted to the FDA for approval in the treatment of multiple myeloma. The drug is similar to Celgene’s blockbuster lenalidomide (Revlimid) in that it prompts the patient’s immune system to attack cancer cells. It also blocks the growth of new blood vessels, which keeps vital nutrients from getting to myeloma cells. The company will present data from trials of the drug in combination with other treatments.

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ)

J&J’s abiraterone acetate (Zytiga) is already approved to treat prostate cancer. Still, the company will be presenting several sets of data, including a trial on the survival benefit offered by the drug and an analysis of its cost effectiveness—a measure that’s increasingly important to managed care companies and other insurers who are looking to slash expenses.

Merck (NYSE: MRK)

Merck will be presenting early-stage data on two of its emerging oncology compounds. MK-3475 is being tested in patients with advanced solid tumors. MK-2206 is being tried in breast cancer, advanced solid tumors, and lung cancer.

Progenics (NASDAQ: PGNX)

This is one of the many companies working on a hot new class of compounds called antibody drug conjugates (ADCs). These drugs are akin to smart bombs, because they are designed to home in on cancer cells and deliver their payload of tumor-killing medicines directly to them, while sparing normal tissue. Progenics is testing its ADC  in prostate cancer, and it will be presenting data from an early human trial at ASCO.

Pfizer (NYSE: PFE)

This NYC-based drug giant is presenting a whopping 100 abstracts at ASCO. Two drugs to watch are dacomitinib in lung cancer and inotuzumab ozogamicin—another ADC–in acute lymphocytic leukemia.

Regeneron (NASDAQ: REGN)

Regeneron is planning several presentations on its cancer compound, aflibercept, which works by binding two proteins that are involved in abnormal blood-vessel growth. The drug, a version of which is already approved to treat the eye disease macular degeneration, is being tested in a range of cancers, including colon cancer and lung cancer.

Cyclacel (NASDAQ: CYCC)

This company has been struggling to advance its leukemia drug, sapacitabine. It will present early data from trials of the same drug in another type of blood cancer, myelodysplastic syndrome, as well as in solid tumors.

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