ASCO: Narrow use of Erbitux, Vectibix

Once again, that celebrity of personalized cancer treatment--the KRAS gene--is on the red carpet. This time, it's the American Society of Clinical Oncology calling for colon cancer treatment to be defined by the state of a patient's KRAS.

As you know, studies have repeatedly shown that patients with a mutated form of KRAS don't benefit from expensive new meds such as Erbitux, marketed by ImClone/Eli Lilly and Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Vectibix, made by Amgen. That amounts to about 35 percent of advanced colon cancer cases, the Wall Street Journal Health Blog notes.

About $600 million in drug spending could be avoided if docs would avoid these costly meds for patients in whom they're unlikely to work. And Amgen has already been lobbying the FDA to add the KRAS-gene info to Vectibix's label. Now, Bristol-Myers tells the WSJ that it looks forward to working with the FDA on the issue. Stay tuned.

- see ASCO's release
- read ASCO's complete opinion (.pdf)
- view the Health Blog item