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Cancer Drug Stocks to Trade Ahead of ASCO

BOSTON (TheStreet) --The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting doesn't kick off for another two and half months, but it's not too early for investors and traders to start compiling a target list of cancer-focused drug stocks.

If it hasn't started already, the momentum in cancer drug stocks will emerge in the days and weeks leading up to May 18. That's the date this year when ASCO will post research abstracts to its annual meeting on the group's web site. The actual ASCO annual meeting doesn't begin until June 3, but if you're looking to trade cancer-focused drug stocks, waiting for June usually means being very late to the party.

For ASCO 2011 buzz, I'd look to prostate cancer stocks. Investors are kicking the tires on Medivation's (MDVN) MDV-3100, especially since the company is dropping strong hints about a phase III interim analysis towards the end of the year. Investors are also focused on Exelixis (EXEL) for cabozantinib both in prostate cancer and more immediately for upcoming results from a phase III study in medullary thyroid cancer.

This year's ASCO meeting will be the second go-around for Dendreon (DNDN) with an approved Provenge under its wing. With Provenge manufacturing capacity expanding, are oncologists, particularly those at academic medical centers, becoming more enthusiastic prescribers of Dendreon's groundbreaking cancer immunotherapy?

Skin cancer is likely to be a hot topic once again, led by Bristol-Myers Squibb's (BMY) Yervoy, which faces a key FDA approval decision at the end of the week. Bristol will use this year's ASCO meeting to both launch Yervoy but also to present new and commercially important data in front-line melanoma. Roche also figures to play heavily in the ASCO skin cancer discussion at with two drugs, PLX4032 and vismodegib (the latter partnered with Curis (CRIS).)

Sanofi-Aventis (SNY) will discuss negative results from a phase III study of iniparib in metastatic triple-negative breast cancer, looking for a silver lining in a disappointing clinical setback.

ASCO is a meeting in which drug research on solid tumors (breast, lung, colon, prostate) dominates, but blood-related cancer drugs also share the stage. The controversy over secondary malignancies tied (or not tied) to long-term use of Celgene's (CELG) multiple myeloma drug Revlimid is sure to be a story line at this year's meeting. Ariad Pharmaceuticals (ARIA) is likely to provide an update on a mid-stage study of ponatinib in chronic myeloid leukemia. Ariad and partner Merck (MRK) will also present detailed data from a positive phase III study of ridaforolimus in sarcoma.

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