ASCO hightlights Herceptin, PARP inhibitors

There's no shortage of cancer news this morning, thanks to the annual ASCO meeting. One drug that's getting a lot of press is Roche's blockbuster breast cancer biologic Herceptin. In patients with the HER-2 gene, Herceptin plus chemotherapy increased survival to 13.8 months, compared with 11.1 month with chemo alone. A stomach cancer approval for Herceptin would mark the first new indication for the drug, which brought in $4.74 billion in sales last year. Roche will seek ex-U.S. approval for the drug, while Genentech will pursue the additional indication in the U.S.

Another hot topic today is a new class of drug called PARP inhibitors. The compounds work by "obstructing the ability of cells damaged by chemotherapy or through genetic mutations to repair themselves, causing tumor cells to die as a result," explains the WSJ. In one trial, Sanofi Aventis reported that BSI-201 plus chemotherapy extended average survival times by three and a half months, to 9.2 months. Sanofi acquired BSI-201 in its recent $500 million buyout of BiPar Sciences--a deal that's now looking like a bargain for Sanofi. And in a study of 52 women with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, AstraZeneca's olaparib spurred tumor shrinkage that reached up to 41 percent. Merck and Abbott are also developing PARP inhibitors.

- here's the WSJ summary
- read more on Herceptin
- see this analysis of PARP inhibitors

ALSO: A new study unveiled at ASCO demonstrated that women taking hormone therapy were 60 percent more likely to die from lung cancer than women who were not taking the treatments. Article