Updated from 7:03 a.m. ESTIt's never too early to ASCO. I'm talking about the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. The Super Bowl of cancer research meetings. The confab that biotech investors (and a certain online biotech columnist, ahem) love to obsess over. The ASCO meeting doesn't kick off until May 31, but I'm all for early prep work. That's especially important this year, because ASCO, for the first time ever, will post the research abstracts for the meeting in advance online. That means these abstracts, which will contain preliminary clinical data on scores of experimental cancer drugs, will be available to everyone at the same time. That's new and important. So, let's start thinking about ASCO. First, I'll identify some of the stocks that may be deemed "hot" going into the meeting. Then, I'll get to the particulars of ASCO's new abstract distribution policy and why you need to circle May 15 on your calendar with a bright red marker.
Stocks to WatchI consulted with the very capable folks at BioMedTracker to help me compile an early list of companies that are likely to present new clinical data at this year's ASCO meeting. This is a preliminary roster, subject to change, and of course there's no way to handicap whether the data to be presented will be good or bad. But investors who like to dabble in cancer stocks should start thinking about the following:
Fairness, FinallyAll right, let's talk about the new ASCO abstract distribution policy. I reported last October that ASCO decided to make a major change to its annual meeting policy by granting the public full access to the research abstracts in advance of the meeting. Previously, ASCO sent research abstracts to its members only, and that, naturally, led to all kinds of leaks. Those investors who were savvy or lucky enough to get access to this information were able to trade on the early data; those not so connected or fortunate had to stand by helplessly while biotech stocks gyrated on what seemed like no news.
Know What You Own: Companies like Genentech and ImClone operate in the biotech sector, and an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that tracks this sector is Biotech HOLDRs ( BBH - Get Report). This ETF was recently trading at $169.04. The current top five stock holdings in Biotech HOLDRs are Genentech, Amgen ( AMGN - Get Report), Gilead Sciences ( GILD - Get Report), Biogen Idec ( BIIB - Get Report) and Genzyme. These stocks were recently trading at $78.84, $43.67, $48.16, $56.55 and $73.14 respectively. To stay up to date on the biotech sector, don't miss TheStreet.com's Biotech section.