ASCO Weekend Recap: OncoGenex, Seattle Genetics, Vulcan-Backed BiPar Show Off Cancer Drug Results

Xconomy Seattle — 

Lots of news from the world of cancer research came out over the weekend at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Orlando, FL. There was a lot of impressive data coming out of Northwest companies (although most of it is still quite preliminary), so here’s a quick recap to catch up. The conference, which drew 30,000 cancer specialists, continues today and tomorrow.

OncoGenex Pharmaceuticals. The Bothell, WA-based biotech company was heralded by a Rodman & Renshaw analyst as one of ASCO’s “sleeper hits” heading into the meeting, so a lot of inquiring minds flocked to its presentation. The company reported that its drug, OGX-011, in combination with standard docetaxel chemotherapy, was able to help men with terminal prostate cancer live a median of 6.9 months longer than if they got docetaxel alone.

Framed a little differently, this drug lowered the risk of death during the study by 39 percent. This is known as the hazard ratio, an important statistical measure of a drug’s benefit. For comparison, Seattle-based Dendreon showed its much-heralded prostate cancer drug, sipuleucel-T (Provenge), was able to lower the risk of dying by 22.5 percent when using this statistical measurement.

Of course, the OncoGenex result needs to be taken with a grain of salt because the trial only had 82 patients. OncoGenex will need money and clinical development manpower from a partner to really confirm this result is real in pivotal clinical trials. CEO Scott Cormack has been so busy trying to get those stars to align for the company that he told me before the conference, “I might fall over.” (He was exaggerating a little for dramatic effect, but he did sound a bit tired on the phone.)

—Billionaire Paul Allen doesn’t get much attention for his biotech investing, but one company he helped get started in 2005, Brisbane, CA-based BiPar Sciences, dropped a “bombshell” at ASCO. The company showed that when its drug is combined with chemotherapy, it was able to shrink tumors, slow down their spread, and help people live longer, without adding any new side effects. This was seen in a 116-patient clinical trial of women with an aggressive form of breast cancer known as the “triple negative” variety.

The data was compelling enough to earn a coveted plenary presentation in front of thousands of doctors at ASCO, and prompted Paris-based Sanofi-Aventis to pay $500 million to buy the company last month. That payday was enough to earn Allen a windfall proft of an estimated $100 million, after he invested just $13 million over the past four years.

This result is so impressive that Powel Brown, a cancer prevention researcher at the Baylor College of Medicine told Bloomberg News that BiPar’s drug and another in its class represent “the biggest story in breast cancer, by far, and it’s going to be a huge bombshell.” The result is so positive, he predicted the drug would be FDA approved in a year or two.

Seattle Genetics offered some more evidence, albeit quite preliminary, that suggests it may have a powerful new drug for Hodgkin’s disease and … Next Page »

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