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Cancer Stocks Focus of ASCO Abstract Release

Cabozantinib is garnering a lot of attention because of previously released data from a mid-stage study demonstrating the drug's ability to both shrink and stabilize tumors but also fully or partly eliminate cancer that had spread to bone in patients with prostate, breast and skin cancer. Cabozantinib has also shown activity against ovarian cancer.

Cancer that metastasizes, or spreads, to bones is a serious complication leading to fractures, increased pain and eventual death. While many cancer drugs can shrink or eliminate tumors in soft tissue, few if any have demonstrated an ability to clear up bone metastases.

Of 65 prostate cancer patients evaluated with bone scans, 56 patients, or 86%, had partial or full resolution of bone lesions. Tumors shrank significantly in 5% of patients, while 71% of patients overall exhibited tumor shrinkage or tumor stabilization.

At the ASCO meeting, researchers will update these cabozantinib data with additional prostate cancer patients and longer follow up, including data aimed at measuring whether the drug can delay the re-growth of tumors and possibly prolong survival. Other researchers will present new data on cabozantinib's activity in heavily pre-treated ovarian cancer.

Additional new data disclosed Wednesday in the ASCO research abstracts include:
  • An oral cancer drug from AstraZeneca delayed the time of tumor growth in women with relapsed ovarian cancer, according to results from a randomized phase II study.
    Women with ovarian cancer responding to initial treatment with chemotherapy were then randomized to receive further maintenance treatment with AstraZeneca's olaparib or a placebo. Tumor re-growth was delayed by 8.4 months in the women treated with olaparib compared to 4.8 months for women given a placebo.
  • Celgene's lung cancer drug Abraxane produced higher rates of tumor shrinkage and less side effects compared to the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel regardless of where lung cancer patients were enrolled, according to a geographical subset analysis of a phase III study.
    Abraxane's overall response rate was 33% compared to 25% for paclitaxel -- a statistically significant benefit that was maintained when patients responses were analyzed by countries of origin -- Russia/Ukraine, Asia/Pacific and North American/Australia. Despite the improved response rate, Abraxane did not prolong the time before tumors started growing again compared to paclitaxel. A survival analysis from the study will be presented at the ASCO meeting.
    Celgene will seek FDA approval later this year to expand Abraxane's label to include treatment for lung cancer. The drug is already approved to treat breast cancer.
  • Nektar Therapeutics' cancer drug NKTR-102 shrank tumors in 21% of women with advanced ovarian cancer that was no longer responsive to other chemotherapies including doxorubicin, according to a sub-set analysis of a previously presented phase II study. Treatment with NKTR-102 delayed tumor progression in these patients by 5.5 months and median overall survival was 14 months.
    Nektar is developing NKTR-102 in ovarian and breast cancer and is expected to outline details of phase III studies at ASCO.
  • Onyx Pharmaceuticals: Treatment with Nexavar plus chemotherapy delayed tumor progression by 3.4 months in women with advanced breast cancer who were previously treated with Roche's Avastin. By comparison, similar breast cancer patients treated with a placebo and chemotherapy reported a delay in tumor progression of 2.7 months. Survival analysis from this phase II study is ongoing. Nexavar is approved for kidney and liver cancer and Onyx is pursuing studies of the drug in breast cancer.
  • --Written by Adam Feuerstein in Boston.

    >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Adam Feuerstein.

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    Adam Feuerstein writes regularly for TheStreet. In keeping with company editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in TheStreet. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Feuerstein appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.
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