Cancer Drug Stocks: The Winners and Losers From ASCO 2016

Here's a summary (and somewhat subjective) breakdown of winners and losers from the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting.

Loser: Abbvie (ABBV) brought the newly acquired small cell lung cancer drug Rova-T to ASCO hoping to show investors the $5.8 billion spent to obtain it via the Stemcentrx acquisition (plus the possibility of spending $4 billion more) was money spent wisely.

Sadly, high expectations for Rova-T were not met, at least for now, with the company presenting data showing just a one-month survival benefit (at the median) over standard of care for small cell lung cancer patients. (A subset of patients with a specific mutation appeared to benefit more.)

Abbvie's reputation for spending too much and getting too little in return remains intact -- and the countdown to biosimilar Humira continues.

Read more about Rova-T from Forbes' Matt Herper here.

Winner: You've never heard of Ganymed because it's a privately held German biotech company backed by German billionaire twins. But Ganymed's IMAB362, an experimental targeted therapy for gastric cancer, produced a big wow over the weekend. When added to chemotherapy, IMAB362 demonstrated a five-month survival benefit over chemotherapy alone (13.2 months vs. 8.4 months) for patients with advanced gastric cancer.

Read more about Ganymed fro Fierce Biotech's John Carroll here.

Loser: Gilead Sciences (GILD) because of being largely AWOL from ASCO. Gilead, have you met Ganymed?

Winner: Genmab and Johnson & Johnson  (JNJ) recently secured approval for a new multiple myeloma drug called Darzalex, used as standalone therapy. Sunday's ASCO plenary session featured new clinical data showing combination therapy of Darzalex added to standard of care (Velcade plus dexamethasone) reduced the risk of disease progression or death by 61% compared to standard therapy alone in patients with advanced multiple myeloma.

Winner: Celgene (CELG) , because while Darzalex+Velcade+dexamethasone looks great in multiple myeloma, Darzalez+Revlimid+dexamethasone could be even better. (Data is coming at a European hematology meeting later this week.)

Loser: Immunomedics (IMMU) for having its most important research abstract -- IMMU-132 in triple negative breast cancer -- removed from the ASCO meeting for trying to pass off old, previously presented study results, as new findings. ASCO wasn't fooled.

Loser: All biotech and drug companies, based on the strong reaction to my tweet about the financial toxicity caused by combinations of already expensive cancer drugs.

Have we reached the point where financial toxicity (FAEs) should be reported alongside SAEs during presentations at #ASCO16?

— Adam Feuerstein (@adamfeuerstein) June 5, 2016

Winner: Ariad Pharmaceuticals' (ARIA) Brigatinib looks like a real drug for patients with ALK-positive non-small cell lung cancer who no longer respond to first-line treatment with Pfizer's (PFE) Xalkori (54% overall response rate and 12.9 months of median progression-free survival). However, the market for ALK inhibitors in lung cancer remains crowded and the positive study results were widely expected.

Loser: OX40 is one of the most-hyped cancer immunotherapy targets for its theoretical ability to improve response to currently approved checkpoint inhibitors. But this weekend, Roche's  (RHHBY) OX40 drug candidate, combined with the checkpoint inhibitor Tecentriq, showed decent safety but not much else.

Underwhelming. More work needed.

Winner: Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) is still the cancer immunotherapy leader.

Winner: Owning a competitive checkpoint inhibitor gets you to the starting line for cancer immunotherapy. Merck KGaA (the German drug company, not U.S.-based Merck) and Pfizer cross that threshold with avelumab, which showed a 31% overall response rate and progression-free survival rate at six months of 40% in patients with advanced merkel cell carcinoma, a rare form of skin cancer.

Winner/Loser: For the second consecutive ASCO meeting, Oncothyreon's (ONTY) HER-2 targeted breast cancer drug ONT-380 delivers strong clinical data. But the stock is down 70% from last year because investors lack confidence in the company's management team, balance sheet and its ability to develop ONT-380 successfully. Oncothyreon is desperate for an experienced partner.

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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