ASCO spotlights new tricks for existing drugs

Much of the focus at the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting is on experimental meds: What pipeline remedies are proving most effective for the companies testing them? But existing drugs sometimes steal the spotlight, at least temporarily. And this year's meeting was no exception. Celgene's Revlimid, Roche's Avastin, and Bristol-Myers Squibb's Sprycel are just three of them. Here's a roundup of some of this year's most interesting bits. 

  • The Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY) cancer drug Sprycel may be superior to the already highly effective standard medicine Gleevec in treating newly diagnosed patients with chronic myeloid leukemia, a new trial suggests. Sprycel is currently approved as a second-line treatment for CML, but Bristol is planning to use this data to support approval as a first-line drug. Release | Report

  • Roche's Avastin can help keep ovarian cancer in check, but only if used for a long period of time, researchers reported. The study found that patients whose ovarian cancer had spread held off the disease for four months longer on a regimen of Avastin plus chemo compared with Avastin alone. Release | Report

  • Surprisingly, the Eli Lilly-BMS drug Erbitux didn't work so well on patients with early-stage colon cancer, even after researchers screened patients to make sure they had a favorable genetic profile for the drug. The study "says what we learn in metastatic disease does not always apply to the adjuvant setting," one of the lead authors said at a news conference (as quoted by the Los Angeles Times). "It also indicates that disease in early stage may be different than in later stage." Report | Report

  • Two major studies of Celgene's (NASDAQ: CELG) multiple myeloma drug Revlimid showed that when taken as maintenance therapy following stem-cell transplantation it reduced the risk of disease progression more than 50 percent. Report

  • The Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN) drug just approved to treat osteoporosis, Prolia, outperformed the Novartis bone drug Zometa at delaying fractures and other skeletal events in men with advanced prostate cancer. The study is part of Amgen's case for a cancer indication for its key new drug. Release |Report

  • Abraxis Bioscience's (NASDAQ:ABII) cancer drug Abraxane outperformed the generic drug Taxol in patients with non-small cell lung cancer, without requiring patients to take steroids or antihistamines, U.S. researchers found. Report