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Cancer Stocks Focus of ASCO Abstract Release

BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Investors got their first look at thousands of cancer drug research abstracts released Wednesday night by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in advance of its closely watched annual meeting.

Among the most significant cancer drug data unveiled for the first time Wednesday night came from phase III studies conducted by Incyte (INCY) and Ariad Pharmaceuticals (ARIA). New disclosures of clinical data were also available from Exelixis (EXEL), Onyx Pharmaceuticals (ONXX), AstraZeneca (AZN), Celgene (CELG) and Nektar Therapeutics (NKTR).

The ASCO annual meeting runs June 3-7 and brings together cancer drug researchers from all over the world to discuss and present new clinical data aimed at treating -- and maybe one day curing -- cancer. Wednesday's release of research abstracts -- short, preliminary summaries of efficacy and safety data from cancer drug clinical trials -- serves as a warm-up for the big event next month.

The ASCO abstract release is also a closely watched event for Wall Street because the revelation of new cancer drug data often has a significant effect on biotech and drug stocks. Many so-called "ASCO stocks" -- particularly biotech stocks with small market caps -- have already started to move higher weeks before the ASCO confab even gets started.

While ASCO whet investors' appetite for cancer drug data Wednesday, the medical society did reserve some of the most impactful research for a more high-profile release at the meeting itself. This includes overall survival data from two separate phase III studies of skin cancer drugs from Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) and Roche that will be presented at the meeting's plenary session. Pfizer (PFE) will also present for the first time results from a phase III study of a new kidney cancer drug at the ASCO meeting in June.

Some of the most highly anticipated clinical data at this year's ASCO conference comes from Incyte, which along with partner Novartis (NVS), is developing a drug known as ruxolitinib for the treatment of myelofibrosis, a cancer in which abnormal bone marrow stem cells produce scar tissue that replaces healthy marrow. Patients with myelofibrosis suffer from anemia and enlarged spleens.

Incyte previously announced positive results from a U.S. phase III study of ruxolitinib in myelofibrosis last December, but new data from the so-called COMFORT-I study were released for the first time in an ASCO abstract.

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