Wall Street's biotech analysts and investors spent Thursday night and Friday making sense of scores of abstracts that hit the Web site of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) late Thursday, but health stocks generally followed the broader markets lower Friday. The Amex Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical indices spent most of the day in the red. Amgen ( AMGN), Abbott ( ABT) and Wyeth , components of the Pharma index, were each down, but less than a percent. Giving movement to a few stocks, ASCO posted many of the 5,000 abstracts for studies due to be presented at its annual meeting later this month. Friedman, Billings, Ramsey and Co. analyst Jim Reddoch said in a note to investors that after sifting through the abstracts, Celgene ( CELG - Get Report) was his top pick going into the conference, which starts at month's end. He was impressed by the velcade/revlimid combination in front-line multiple myeloma, which showed a 65% very good partial response or better and compared favorably to a combination of revlimid and low-dose dexamethasone. "We think more doctors will use the combo after this, and that benefits CELG by longer treatment durations," he wrote. Reddoch also liked maintenance data released in a separate ASCO abstract Thursday. Celgene shares rose 3.4% to $61.32. Genentech said late Thursday that final safety and efficacy results for its C-08 trial on Avastin in early stage colon cancer will be available a year earlier than previously expected -- 2009 rather than 2010. In conjunction with the release of abstracts for the ASCO meeting, the company also announced that an independent data monitoring board recently cleared the study to continue. Wall Street analysts noted on Friday that it's clearly a positive that there were no safety issues, but debatably negative that the study didn't have enough efficacy at the recent check to be stopped. Investors seemed to approve, however, and shares rose $1.25, or 1.8%, to $70.08.
ASCO released an abstract for a study on Eli Lilly's ( LLY - Get Report) Alimta in maintenance for non-small cell lung cancer. The drug is already approved as a second-line treatment and competes with OSI Pharmaceuticals and Genentech's Tarceva. Lilly's shares inched up 0.3% to $48.80, but OSI Pharma fell 0.5% to $35.73. Two abstracts that we didn't get to look at: The AVADO study on Genentech's Avastin in lung cancer and the abstract for highly the anticipated FLEX trial data on Erbitux in non-small-cell lung cancer. Also ImClone ( IMCL) noted in a release that the abstract for an assessment of the link between the K-Ras gene status of the patient's tumor and the treatment effect of Erbitux in metastatic colorectal wasn't posted because it, too, was being presented in a plenary session. Erbitux is being developed and marketed by Bristol Myers Squibb ( BMY - Get Report), ImClone and Merck KGaA. ImClone fluctuated throughout the week, reacting to upgrades and downgrades, and skepticism about the strength of the Erbitux data to come. On Friday, shares were down 2.2% at $41.72. Finally, in non-ASCO-realted news, Pharmacopeia shares bound $1.12, or 35%, to $4.30 after the company said a phase IIa study on its PS433540 met primary and secondary endpoints and significantly lowered blood pressure in patients with mild to moderate hypertension. The company is presenting the results at the American Society of Hypertension annual meeting in Chicago.