Winners And Losers From Cancer Research’s Biggest Event

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Winners And Losers From Cancer Research’s Biggest Event

What’s the news from the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting?

The annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology draws 45,000 doctors, researchers, and drug company executives to Chicago every year for a deluge of data that can change medical practice and move stocks. This year is no different. Here’s a look at the biggest victories and stumbles from this year’s ASCO so far.

Winner: Merck

It’s starting to feel like Groundhog Day when it comes to writing about Merck and its drug Keytruda at medical meetings. Here’s the story: A rival presents data showing that its cancer immunotherapy has unprecedented efficacy in lung cancer, and then Merck shows data that’s even better. This time it was in squamous cell non-small cell lung cancer, the last big market of metastatic lung cancer. Roche showed that adding its Tecentriq to chemotherapy lowered the risk of cancer progressing by 30%, but did not impact survival. Then Merck presented data showing a 40% reduction in progression and a 36% reduction in the risk of death when Keytruda was added to chemo. That cements dominance of a lucrative market. Wall Street analysts are expecting Keytruda to hit annual sales of $12 billion in several years, leaving rival Bristol-Myers Squibb with (only) $9 billion. The market is huge, because lung cancer is common and the drugs have a list price of $150,000 per patient.

Last year, Loxo presented stunning data on a drug against cancers that are caused by a rare mutation. This year, it presented data on a second drug against cancers that are caused by a different rare mutation. Again, the data were fantastic, showing that in patients with a gene alteration called a RET fusion, 77% saw meaningful tumor shrinkage. That may or may not give Loxo an advantage over BluePrint Medicines, which presented slightly less impressive data on a similar drug in April. But investors are buoyed by the Loxo team’s clear approach to regulatory ideas and its repeated success. The big question is whether these drugs for rare mutations can become real markets. Loxo shares are up 13% to $211 in premarket trading, giving the small company a market capitalization of more than $6 billion—a lot for a company with no approved drugs.

Read on: Winners And Losers From Cancer Research’s Biggest Event 

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