Are you ready to ASCO?

The annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology kicks off June 1 in Chicago. The five-day conference brings together thousands of cancer researchers and drug and biotech companies from around the world to hear about the latest advances.

And Wall Street is there in force, too, of course.

With plenty of time to prepare, here are a few storylines investors should pay attention to at ASCO 2007:

The most anticipated clinical data -- at least from a Wall Street perspective -- comes from

Onyx Pharmaceuticals


. The big question: How good is its drug Nexavar in treating liver cancer?

In February, Onyx and partner


announced the early stoppage of their phase III Nexavar liver cancer study after an interim analysis found patients taking Nexavar were living longer than patients on placebo.

The two companies withheld actual data from this announcement so it could be presented at a medical meeting, which will take place June 4 during the big plenary session at ASCO.

The fact that the Nexavar study was stopped early suggests the drug provided a significant boost in survival, but we'll wait for the presentation for exact details.

At past ASCOs,


(AMGN) - Get Amgen Inc. Report


Johnson & Johnson

(JNJ) - Get Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) Report

engaged in a "war of the schwag" to see which company could plaster the brand name of their respective anemia drugs - Aranesp and Procrit -- on more walls, posters, bags, coffee mugs, squeeze toys and various other useless paraphernalia.

Double, low-fat, no-foam Procrit latte, anyone? This toilet seat cover brought to you by Aranesp. ...

Will things be different this year, now that real clinical data suggests that it might be bad for cancer patients to be loaded up with so much Aranesp or Procrit that their blood becomes thicker than 15-year-old motor oil?

I'm being snarky, I know. Seriously, though, given all the concerns about overuse of so-called erythropoietic stimulating agents in cancer patients and the new push to adhere to conservative treatment guidelines, it will be interesting to see if: 1) there is a noticeable decrease in the over-the-top marketing of these drugs, and 2) whether oncologists are using more, less, or the same amount of Aranesp and Procrit as they did in the past.


( DNA) also will be represented at the ASCO plenary session with data presented from an Avastin study in front-line kidney cancer. Like Onyx, Genentech and partner


preannounced success in this study last December.

This trial of advanced kidney cancer patients compared the use of Avastin plus interferon-alpha with interferon alone, with patients in the former arm benefiting in terms of progression-free survival.

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But with


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Sutent and Onyx's Nexavar already used to treat kidney cancer, Avastin faces more competition here than in some of the cancer indications where it's approved.

Genentech always has a full plate of data at ASCO meetings and this year is no different. There will be more Avastin data on lung and colon cancer; combination data with Avastin and Tarceva, which Genentech co-owns with

OSI Pharmaceuticals

( OSIP); and new breast cancer data on Omnitarg, a pipeline drug that was recently resurrected by the company.


ImClone Systems


, this year's ASCO will once again be mostly about Erbitux. We'll get to see data from a phase III study of Erbitux and chemotherapy in first-line colon cancer patients. ImClone has previously told us the study is positive, with details to come during ASCO.

It will be tough for Erbitux to supplant Genentech's Avastin as the drug of choice in first-line colon cancer treatment, but strong data could very well cement Erbitux's place as a second-line therapy and help it overcome competition from Amgen's Vectibix.

ASCO meetings are always a good venue for researchers and Wall Street to examine what might be next in cancer treatment. This year is no exception. Companies like


(ARQL) - Get ArQule, Inc. Report



(EXEL) - Get Exelixis, Inc. Report



( MEDX) are expected to showcase data on novel anti-cancer drugs.

Lastly, don't discount Big Pharma at ASCO. While the biotech sector has grabbed the lion's share of attention in recent years, the major pharmaceuticals firms are no longer laggards.


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and Pfizer, to name just two, will make their presence felt at ASCO 2007 with data presentations on new cancer drugs.

Adam Feuerstein writes regularly for In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Feuerstein appreciates your feedback;

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