ASCO: Cancer Drug Showdown

While immuno-oncology was certainly hot at this year's American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting, there were plenty of data on other interesting cancer drugs presented at the cancer confab.

Ariad Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ARIA  ) for instance, presented data on Iclusig in gastrointestinal stromal tumors, showing that about half of the patients had a clinical benefit. Ariad also said that the Food and Drug Administration lifted a clinical hold that was put in place after blood clots were discovered in some patients taking the drug for their leukemia.

Imbruvica, which is sold by Pharmacyclics (NASDAQ: PCYC  ) and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ  ) , beat GlaxoSmithKline's Arzerra in a head-to-head trial comparing the two drugs in patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Imbruvica produced a 78% reduction in progression-free survival and an 85% response rate, compared with just 23% for Arzerra. Pharmacyclics and Johnson & Johnson look poised to take market share from Arzerra.

We also saw a battle between Clovis (NASDAQ: CLVS  ) and AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN  ) , although it wasn't of the head-to-head variety. Both companies are developing drugs for lung cancer patients with mutations in the epidermal growth factor receptor, which makes the tumors resistant to current drugs. AstraZeneca's AZ9291 produced a 65% response rate, slightly better than the 58% that Clovis' CO-1686 produced. Unfortunately, both had side effects, which might be the differentiating factor on which drug prevails if they're eventually approved by the FDA.

Watch the following video for more thoughts from senior biotech specialist Brian Orelli and health-care analyst David Williamson.

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