ASCO15: BioSpace's Roundup of What You May Have Missed at ASCO So Far

Published: Jun 01, 2015

ASCO15: BioSpace's Roundup of What You May Have Missed at ASCO So Far
June 1, 2015
By Riley McDermid, BioSpace.com Breaking News Sr. Editor

The eyes of the biotech and life sciences world are all fixed on the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)’s annual meeting happening in Chicago right now and BioSpace has got you covered. We’ve put together a wrap up of what was most important during this weekend’s presentations, when most of the biotech community was enjoying a much-needed rest.

The flood of cancer drug data can sometimes be overwhelming, but BioSpace has handpicked the ones that are likely to be most important—or most disappointing—for the companies looking to take a bite of the multi-billion dollar cancer market in 2015. See below for our snapshot of what you may have missed during the first few days of ASCO that could be pushing the market higher this week.

Celldex Therapeutics, Inc.

Patients undergoing treatment for glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, can live longer using an experimental vaccine currently in mid-stage trials, New Jersey-based Celldex Therapeutics, Inc. (CLDX) said this weekend.

The company announced data from the clinical the Phase II ReACT study of Rintega (rindopepimut), showed the patients with recurrent glioblastoma who were taking Rintega, were experiencing six months of progression free survival as well as a reduction of need for additional steroids.

Clovis Oncology

Boulder, Colo.-based Clovis Oncology (CLVS) has become an even more attractive takeover target after it presented data Saturday that showed its ovarian cancer drug shrunk tumors in 82 percent of the women it treated in a recent mid-stage trial.

All of the patients treated with Clovis' rucaparib during the Phase II ARIEL2 had a mutated BRCA gene and 10 percent of patients had complete resolution of their tumors. Median progression-free survival was 9.4 months. In addition, nearly half of those (45 percent) with "BRCA-like" saw response rates to rucaparib, with their median progression-free survival in these patients was 7.1 months.

ImmunoGen, Inc.

Waltham, Mass.-based ImmunoGen, Inc. released data that showed 53 percent of patients in its ongoing Phase I trial for ovarian cancer saw a slowing of the disease.

The drug, IMGN-853, targets tumors that produce high levels of a protein called folate receptor alpha, which is about 2,000 to 3,000 of the approximately 21,300 women diagnosed annually with ovarian cancer.

The findings showed that the drug seemed to slow the growth of the cancer in 53 percent of patients receiving the treatment. A more typical response for existing chemotherapy drugs is 15 to 20 percent. In addition, previous trial data presented by ImmunoGen showed a 40 percent response rate. Of the 17 patients evaluated, ovarian cancer appeared to be eradicated and in eight there was measurable improvement.

Pfizer Inc.

Pfizer Inc. (PFE)’s breast cancer drug Ibrance taken in combination with an estrogen-treatment therapy developed by AstraZeneca PLC slowed the progression of the most common forms of the disease by more than nine months, the company said Monday.

In the drug’s latest clinical trial, dubbed PALOMA-3, which studied 521 patients who saw their cancer return after initial treatment for the disease, those patients treated with a combination of Ibrance and AstraZeneca’s Faslodex (fulvestrant), saw progression free survival of a median of 9.2 months until the cancer progressed.

CTI BioPharma

CTI Biopharma enjoyed a boost after showing its drug pacritinib showed some benefits for patients with myelofibrosis patients with low platelet counts. In a Phase II study, the company showed that pacritinib had a spleen response rate of 23 percent, compared with zero responses in patients receiving alternate treatments.

Roche

Roche presented data that showed its drug obinutuzumab (Gazyva) doubled the remission time and reduced the risk of disease progression in patients with rituximab-refractory indolent non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

“The combination of obinutuzumab and bendamustine followed by obinutuzumab leads to a clinically relevant and significant improvement compared with bendamustine alone -- a 45 percent decrease in the risk of disease progression (P=0.0001)," said Laurie Sehn, a doctor for the British Columbia Cancer Agency in Vancouver and author of the study, adding the randomized, controlled trial was "remarkable."

"Based on the trial results, the combination of obinutuzumab and bendamustine results in significant benefit," she added. "Certainly, in these patients, there is compelling reason to use obinutuzumab in the setting in which patients are refractory to rituximab [Rituxan] because it would be expected to provide them with clinical benefit."

Merck & Co.

Merck made headlines when it said on the first day of ASCO that a Phase II study had identified a genetic marker, mismatch repair (MMR) deficiency, that appears to predict response rates to its cancer drug Keytruda. Merck presented data that showed that its drug Keytruda saw a 62 percent tumor shrinkage in patients with advanced colon cancer containing a newly discovered genetic biomarker. The drug also demonstrated a tumor response rate of 25 percent, which raised eyebrows because that’s around double the response its closest competitor, Eli Lilly and Company 's Erbitux, usually enjoys.



Will PfizerKline Become the Next Pharma Player?
The speculation surrounding a possible bid from Pfizer Inc. for struggling GlaxoSmithKline is heating up, after one closely-watched biotech analyst said in a note last week that Pfizer buying the company would “unlock access to its balance sheet and improve its tax situation.”

Gregg Gilbert, a biotech analyst at Deutsche Bank, wrote in a note to investors “Introducing PfizerKline” that he thinks a deal would be “materially accretive” for both companies. Gilbert estimated that a bid priced at $29.86 a share, via half stock and half cash, which would push up Pfizer’s earnings per share by 10 percent to 16 percent beginning in 2016.

“We believe that the company has a sense of urgency to create value by leveraging the power of its balance sheet to do needle-moving deals,” Gilbert wrote. “Since media reports in the past have pointed to the potential for a Pfizer/GSK combination, we are revisiting that theme.”

We want to know, dear readers, if you agree? Should Glaxo continue going it alone, or might Pfizer buy it and create one of the world’s largest pharma players in history?

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