The annual American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) conference begins later this month and the data has just been released.  Here are some key abstracts prior to the presentations:

Eli Lilly’s Alimta (pemetrexed) slowed the spread of non-small cell lung cancer in patients with advanced disease. It’s approved for use in patients who have failed chemotherapy; this study suggests it may be added to treatment earlier in the course of disease.  Lilly are reportedly filing the early data in patients with select histology later this year.  It was recently approved for first-line use in the EU.

Novartis' RAD001 (everolimus/Afinitor); nearly two-thirds of renal cell cancer patients taking had progression of their disease delayed by a year, a significantly better result than in those taking placebo.  The disease did not progress for one year in 65 percent of patients taking RAD001, taken once daily orally, compared to 37 percent in those taking placebo, according to detailed results from a late-stage trial, which was stopped early because it met its main target.

GSK 's Tykerb (lapatinib) demonstrated positive data from the first-ever randomized, multi-center, open label Phase III trial of the combination of two targeted agents, lapatinib and trastuzumab (Herceptin), in women with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer who had previous been heavily pre-treated with taxanes and anthracyclines.

Genentech's Avastin (bevacizumab) showed improved survival for patients with recurring brain cancer. The Phase II trial compared Avastin with irinotecan chemotherapy to Avastin alone in patients with relapsed glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common and aggressive type of brain cancer.  Median survival was 9.2 months in the Avastin-only arm and 8.7 months in the Avastin and irinotecan arm.  According to historical estimates, only 15 percent of patients with relapsed GBM would be expected to live without their cancer advancing for six months.

ImClone/BMS's Erbitux (cetuximab) new gene findings indicate a simple gene test could allow doctors to predict in advance which patients are likely to benefit from the therapy, ie those without KRAS mutations, since there is evidence that they are more likely to respond to treatment.  The same approach would also apply to Amgen's Vectibix (panitumumab).