Pfizer's Xalkori, Roche's TDM-1 among winners at ESMO

With the European Society of Medical Oncology meeting in Vienna, the cancer-drug studies are dropping like autumn leaves. But that's not all the cancer news today. As if to piggyback on the ESMO headlines, insurers and regulators have chipped in with their own oncology developments. Here's a roundup:

  • Pfizer's ($PFE) targeted lung cancer drug Xalkori held off cancer growth for twice as long as standard therapies, according to a study unveiled at ESMO. Xalkori patients lived 7.7 months without their cancer worsening, compared with 3 months for patients on Sanofi's ($SNY) docetaxel (also available as a generic) and Eli Lilly's ($LLY) Alimta. Researchers said Xalkori should be the new second-line standard. Overall survival wasn't measured, however, because patients were switched to Xalkori during the trial. Report

  • Investigators behind the big T-DM1 breast cancer program took the lid off the last big data box from its pivotal study this morning, revealing that the armed antibody delivered a 32% reduction in the risk of death among patients in the pivotal Phase III study when compared to the standard-of-care arm. The median overall survival rate for T-DM1 patients hit an impressive 30.9 months, while patients taking a combination of Tykerb and Xeloda achieved a 25.1-month OS rate, putting Roche ($RHHBY)/Genentech and their minority partner ImmunoGen ($IMGN) on track to a near-term U.S. approval. Report

  • GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) Votrient proved as effective as Pfizer's market-leading Sutent at staving off progress of kidney cancer, an open-label head-to-head study found. Median PFS for Glaxo's drug was 8.4 months, compared with 9.5 months for Sutent; response rates were 31% for Votrient and 25% for Sutent. But just-as-good data may not be enough to help Votrient gain market share. Report

  • Dendreon ($DNDN) saw its stock gain on news that Aetna expanded coverage of the cancer vaccine Provenge, making more patients eligible to receive the expensive therapy. The company called it "a positive policy update;" it's certainly hoping for a positive effect on Provenge sales. Report

  • Women using aromatase inhibitors to prevent a recurrence of hormone-positive breast cancer reported sexual problems, including painful sex, and said they were dissatisfied with their sex lives. Report

  • Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) won new European approvals for two cancer products. Dacogen, already approved for myelodysplastic syndromes, won an OK for acute myeloid leukemia in the elderly. An injectable version of the multiple myeloma drug Velcade also got the EU nod; previously it was only available in IV form. Report