ASCO '12 Abstract Dump: Cancer Stocks in Focus

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 Aveo Pharmaceuticals ( AVEO) and Exelixis ( EXEL), and randomized phase II studies of drugs discovered by Array BioPharma ( ARRY).

New disclosures of cancer drug data were also made available from Arqule ( ARQL), Ariad Pharmaceuticals ( ARIA), Pharmacyclics ( PCYC), Onyx Pharmaceuticals ( ONXX) and Seattle Genetics ( SGEN), among many others.

The ASCO annual meeting runs June 1-5 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. Trading volatility can ramp up significantly for many of the so-called "ASCO stocks" -- particularly small-cap biotech stocks -- in the weeks before the ASCO confab gets started.

While investors were flooded with new cancer drug data Wednesday, ASCO did hold back some of the some important and potentially stock-moving research for a more high-profile release at the meeting itself. Key cancer drug data that remains under wrap include results from a phase III study of Johnson & Johnson's ( JNJ) Zytiga in "pre-chemo" prostate cancer patients; a phase III study of Bayer and Onyx's regorafenib in advanced gastrointestinal stromal tumors; several Roche/Genentech ( RHHBY) studies, including Avastin in ovarian cancer and TDM-1 in breast cancer (partnered with Immunogen ( IMGN)); melanoma data from GlaxoSmithKline's ( GSK) targeted drug dabrefenib; and a new targeted PD-1 immunotherapy from Bristol-Myers Squibb ( BMY).

The following pages summarize new and important cancer drug data released tonight by ASCO from research abstracts for its upcoming annual meeting.

Array BioPharma

What we already know: Last September, Array partner AstraZeneca ( AZN) announced top-line results from a phase II non-small cell lung cancer study of selumetinib, in which the combination of selumetinib plus docetaxel demonstrated a "numerically greater increase" in survival compared to docetaxel alone. Patients in the study had non-small cell lung cancer with a mutation in the KRAS gene, which makes the tumors harder to treat.

What's new in the ASCO abstracts: Median overall survival in the selumetinib/docetaxel arm was 9.4 months compared to 5.2 months for docetaxel alone -- a difference of 4.2 months but not statistically significant. Response rate (37% vs. 0%) and progression-free survival (5.3 months vs. 2.1 months) both favored selumetinib/docetaxel over docetaxel alone with statistical significance. (Abstract No. 7503)

Additional ASCO abstracts of note: Take a look at Abstract No. 8511, which reports on early results of a phase II study investigating MEK162 in patients with cutaneous melanoma harboring one of two genetic mutations: BRAFV600 or NRAS. MEK162 is a drug developed by Array and licensed to Novartis ( NVS). Among 29 BRAF-mutant melanoma patients treated with MEK162, there were 1 confirmed and 6 unconfirmed partial responses and 9 patients with stable disease. Among 13 NRAS mutant patients, there were 2 confirmed and 1 unconfirmed partial responses and 4 patients with stable disease.

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