ASCO 2019: What to watch for, including Keytruda, Lynparza, KRAS and more

Chicago skyline
The ASCO annual meeting will take place at Chicago's McCormick Place. (Pexels / Pixabay)

CHICAGO—As the year’s largest cancer confab, the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting features more new data than any one person could hope to absorb—and more than we could hope to cover. We're breaking down the highlights below to give you a glimpse at the top studies we’re tracking, so you can follow along, too.

SATURDAY

  • It’s all about Merck & Co.—when it comes to ASCO’s late-breaking abstracts, that is. The New Jersey drugmaker has three prime spots on the conference press program for its cancer-fighters, and two of those are for immuno-oncology star Keytruda. Among them? A slot for Keytruda in advanced gastric or gastroesophageal junction cancer. After revealing last month that results were less-than-stellar, Merck will be showing how the drug performed with and without chemo versus chemo alone.
  • “Long-term overall survival” isn’t a term that’s been thrown around in the advanced non-small cell lung cancer arena over the years, but it’s exactly what Merck will be presenting Saturday for Keytruda in previously untreated patients. The checkpoint inhibitor, as a monotherapy, was the first in its class to win a go-ahead from the FDA in the sizeable patient population.
  • Novartis’ Kisqali is looking to gain ground in a field dominated by Pfizer blockbuster Ibrance, and new survival data could help it do the trick. The Swiss drugmaker will present results from a trial examining the drug in premenopausal HR-positive, HER2-negative patients who haven’t been previously treated with endocrine therapy.

SUNDAY

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  • AstraZeneca and Merck’s Lynparza has been a serial ASCO headline-maker over the past few years (see 2018, 2017), and this year should be no different. Back in February, the companies said the standout drug had become the first in its class to show it could stave off disease progression in patients with tough-to-treat pancreatic cancer patients, and at ASCO, it’ll reveal just how long it kept the disease at bay.
  • Pfizer and Astellas’ Xtandi is in a heated rivalry with Johnson & Johnson’s newcomer Erleada when it comes to prostate cancer, and the companies are hoping new data in metastatic hormone-sensitive forms of the disease can give it a boost. Sunday, survival details from an investigator-sponsored trial will roll out, showing how Xtandi-plus-standard-of-care measured up against standard-of-care therapy alone.

MONDAY

  • Seattle Genetics and Astellas started prepping an FDA filing for their bladder cancer drug EV-201 (enfortumab vedotin) earlier this year on the strength of phase 2 data. At ASCO, the duo will unveil data showing how the antibody-drug conjugate fared in patients with advanced cancer who had already received platinum chemo and checkpoint inhibitors.
  • Two weeks ago, Amgen gave us a peek at early data for AMG 510, its effort to drug KRAS, an oncogene previously thought of as undruggable. These included encouraging numbers for six patients with non-small cell lung cancer—the drug shrank tumors in two of them and stopped tumor growth in another two At ASCO, Amgen will reveal more data from more patients.

READ MORE: ASCO 2019 preview: Big Pharmas looking for cancer R&D revival as we hit next-gen crossroads

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