Notes from ASCO 2016

Although this year’s ASCO contained a limited amount of groundbreaking data, it provided some interesting take-aways and signaled important trends in oncology drug development.  Below is my take on a quiet but important meeting.

Immuno-oncology – PD-1 combinations at their infancy

As in previous years, the meeting was dominated by PD-1/PD-L1 antibodies. Now that PD-1 blockers have been tested on every tumor known to mankind (see below a great figure from Merck), focus is shifting to combination regimens with PD-1 as a backbone. Combination partners range from other immune checkpoints to chemotherapy, targeted therapy and radiation. Continue reading

Drugs to watch at ASCO 2014

Below is my ASCO 2014 preview (better late than never…). I tried to make this recap as comprehensive as possible but it is practically impossible to cover all the interesting stuff (let me know if I missed anything dramatic). Unlike last year, I decided to group interesting abstracts based on mechanism of action rather than companies in order to provide a more holistic perspective. On top of attending the conference itself, I will try to attend as many analyst events as possible (this year I have Clovis, Roche, BMS and Incyte on my list) and include them in my post-ASCO write-up. Continue reading

Exelixis – Down but not out, plenty of catalysts in 2014

Last week, Exelixis (EXEL) lost 47% after announcing the COMET-1 trial was not stopped for efficacy at the interim analysis. The reaction implies investors were expecting a positive outcome based on experience with other prostate cancer phase III trials that had been stopped early due to efficacy. These include Medivation’s (MDVN) Xtandi and Bayer’s Xofigo.

Even after the disappointing announcement, I still think Exelixis has significant upside potential for 2 reasons: Continue reading

Drugs to watch at ASCO 2013

Below is a recap of interesting data expected to be presented at the Annual meeting of The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).  This year’s meeting will have a strong focus on immunotherapy (PD-1 antibodies in particular) as well as novel oral agents for hematology. Companies for which important data are expected are reviewed as well.

PD-1 takes center stage

PD-1 antibodies are by far the hottest and most active field in cancer drug development. Although technically, all data to date were from phase I studies, there is wall to wall consensus that inhibitors of the PD-1 pathway will become a cornerstone in several cancer types and a $5-$10B franchise.

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Buying AVEO ahead of FDA panel

AVEO’s (AVEO) controversial drug, tivozanib, will face an FDA’s advisory committee (Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee or ODAC) on May 2nd. Despite the negative sentiment around AVEO, I still view tivozanib as an approvable drug with a compelling risk/benefit profile and expect an overwhelmingly positive ODAC recommendation. The FDA does not always follow the ODAC’s recommendations, but in tivozanib’s case it should be regarded as an important risk mitigation event. Continue reading

Major trends in cancer drug development – Notes from TAT 2013

Earlier this month, I attended the TAT (Targeted anticancer therapies) congress in Paris. This conference focuses exclusively on targeted therapies for cancer, one of the most active areas in drug development. As a small conference (~500 participants), it does not generate a lot of high profile clinical data, still, it is a great opportunity to “feel the pulse” of oncology drug development. Speakers include clinical oncologists, basic scientists and industry researchers, which provide a fairly broad spectrum with respect to existing and upcoming trends.

Here, I focus on three major themes from the meeting: PD-1 inhibitors, antibody drug conjugates (ADCs) and cancer metabolism. Continue reading

Exelixis – Setting the Facts Straight

Exelixis (EXEL) saw its share price cut in half last week, due to a regulatory setback. Based on what others have published and questions I received there appears to be some confusion with respect to  the implications for the company. I decided to address this issue using a questions and answers format, based on the many inquiries I received. Hope this format sheds some light on the situation.

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BMS zeroes in on its next blockbuster

Last week BMS (BMY) increased its stake in BMS-936558 (formerly MDX-1106) by regaining worldwide marketing rights for the drug except in Japan, Korea and Taiwan. This was the result of a deal with Ono Pharmaceutical, who originally held ex-US rights for the drug. In return, Ono received marketing rights for Orencia, a BMS drug  for Rheumatoid arthritis which is already in the market. BMS’ decision to exchange its stake in a product with real sales in return for a candidate in mid stage clinical development might seem odd at first glance, but a quick look at BMS-936558’s data is enough to understand the deal was a brilliant move.  

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Lessons Learned from Sanofi’s Failure

Last week, Sanofi-Aventis (SNY) announced disappointing results from a phase III trial evaluating iniparib in breast cancer. The drug failed to improve survival and progression-free survival (PFS) in breast cancer patients and although actual data were not published, approval is unlikely even for a subset of patients. Failed phase III trials are quite common in oncology, a field with one of the highest attrition rates in the pharmaceutical industry. Nevertheless, iniparib’s failure is particularly disturbing, as the phase III was supported by compelling results from a randomized controlled phase II trial as well as strong scientific rationale. Importantly, this trial could have broader implications as it raises questions regarding the role of randomized phase II trials as a go/no go decision point for pivotal trials. 

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