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Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Ariad, and Medivation in Spotlight at Cancer Meeting


Thousands of scientific papers are about to be released in advance of the biggest event of the year for cancer drug developers.

MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL Scientific papers for most of the drug studies presented at a major cancer conference in June will be made public Wednesday evening. Once investors and analysts tear through the data, you can expect major movement in some stocks.

This is a highly significant annual event for investors in companies developing new cancer treatments. The presentations at the American Society of Clinical Oncology, or ASCO, next month will give a sense of how experimental therapies are performing in human trials, an early indication of whether the products stand a chance of eventually winning market approval. Bear in mind that the abstract data to be released Wednesday at 6 p.m. EDT will already be old. Updated information will be available at the conference, which is June 1-5 in Chicago. Go to to see the abstracts.

Big companies, such as Pfizer (PFE), GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), and Roche will present at the conference. Pfizer says it will present about 100 scientific papers at the conference. But there will be thousands of presentations overall. Here is a quick rundown of some companies with cancer treatments to be highlighted at ASCO.

Medivation (MDVN) will present data on its experimental prostate cancer drug for patients who have already received chemotherapy. MDV3100 increased survival in patients in a study by more than 18 months, or almost five months longer than a placebo, Medivation said in February. (See Medivation Prostate Cancer Drug Works Well, Appears Safe in Study.) The company is expected to file for US approval of its drug by the end of June. If approved, Medivation's drug would compete with Johnson & Johnson's (JNJ) Zytiga and Dendreon's (DNDN) Provenge.

J&J's Zytiga, approved last year for men with advanced prostate cancer, is being tested for use in patients who haven't received chemotherapy. In March, the company said the drug used with a steroid met study goals. The abstract for that late-stage study will not be released in advance of the conference. When it is available, the data will draw a lot of interest. Results of the trial's success are important to rivals Medivation and Dendreon. The goal for the prostate cancer drug developers is to win approval for use in patients with early stages of the disease, a much bigger market than the post-chemo population.

Ariad Pharmaceuticals (ARIA) will present data on ponatinib, a treatment for two types of leukemia. Ariad is expected to file for US approval of the drug in the third quarter. Ariad is focused on treating patients who are resistant to the drugs Tasigna by Novartis (NVS) and Sprycel by Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY)

Seattle Genetics' (SGEN) drug Adcetris won approval last year as a secondary treatment for a couple of blood cancers -- Hodgkin lymphoma and anaplastic large cell lymphoma, or ALCL. Investors will be watching early to mid-stage study data showing how Adcetris tested in a broader patient population.

Exelixis (EXEL) is testing its drug cabozantinib in multiple types of cancer and some investors think the product can be a blockbuster someday. The company received an embarrassing setback last year when it misread signals from the FDA on the design of a study of prostate cancer patients. (See Exelixis Plunges as FDA Refuses to Sign Off on Drug Study.)

"We expect an extensive update on (cabozantinib) data," Stifel Nicolaus analyst Joel Sendek says. He is looking for more details on studies of the drug for prostate, thyroid, and breast cancers, as well as melanoma and other conditions.

Aveo Pharmaceuticals (AVEO) is expected to apply for US approval of its kidney cancer treatment tivozanib in the third quarter. Earlier this year, the company said its drug worked better in patients with advanced cancer than an approved therapy, Onyx Pharmaceuticals' (ONXX) Nexavar. Investors previously hoped the drug would thoroughly thump Nexavar in the study and Aveo's shares fell. (See Cancer Drug Developer Aveo Shares Sink as Study Data Falls Short of Investor Hopes.)

ArQule (ARQL) is testing its drug tivantinib for multiple cancers. It's in the late stages of testing the treatment for lung cancer and also is studying the drug for colon and liver cancers. An ASCO presentation for study of the drug in liver cancer patients is the near-term focus for Arqule investors, Leerink Swann analyst Howard Liang says.

Oncothyreon's (ONTY) experimental drug PX-866 is being tested in mid-stage studies to treat lung, head and neck, brain, and prostate cancers. The company is expected to present updated data at the conference.

Twitter: @brettchase

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