ASCO Preview: Seattle Genetics, ZymoGenetics, Trubion & Other Seattle Biotechs Offer Peeks at Cancer Drug Results

5/15/09Follow @xconomy

The market for cancer drugs is booming, on pace to grow from $66 billion in worldwide sales in 2008 to more than $84 billion by 2012, according to data from Cowen & Company. So if you are a member of the leading association of cancer physicians in the world, then chances are your annual meeting would be a pretty popular destination for members of the biotech and pharmaceutical industry, right?

There’s no doubt about it. The 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, or abstracts, yesterday 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.

Seattle-area companies have a historic strength in oncology, so this is a big moment for them to try to make a compelling case to physicians that they have drugs with real potential. Here are some of the highlights from local companies.

Seattle Genetics. The Bothell, WA-based biotech company (NASDAQ: SGEN) said it plans to present data at the ASCO meeting from an early-stage clinical trial on how well its SGN-35 drug candidate (for lymphomas) performs when given on a weekly basis, instead of a less frequent schedule of once every three weeks.

This drug—which combines the tumor-targeting capability of an antibody with a potent toxin designed to give it extra killing power—has already shown stellar results when it is given once every three weeks. The previous trial was in 44 patients with relapsed forms of Hodgkin’s disease and related lymphomas who got the drug in that less-frequent dose. It showed that 17 of the 44, or about 38 percent, had their tumors completely wiped out.

The results with more frequent, weekly dosing are still quite preliminary, but they look even better. At the time the abstract was submitted, preliminary data showed that of the 15 patients taking low weekly doses, seven of them had a complete disappearance of their tumors, and one had more than 25 percent tumor shrinkage, Seattle Genetics said. Tumors stabilized in five patients, and just two … Next Page »

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