Cancer news boosts Bristol; Roche, Novartis steady

Cancer news boosts Bristol; Roche, Novartis steady

London: Bristol-Myers Squibb Co’s shares were 2.6% higher in thin Frankfurt trade on Monday after news at the weekend its experimental drug ipilimumab extended survival in patients with deadly skin cancer.

But shares in Roche Holding AG and Novartis AG — the two European firms with most data on show at the world’s top cancer meeting in Chicago — were little changed as investors decided results did not change expectations significantly.

Bristol’s ipilimumab added an average of four months to the lives of patients with advanced melanoma, marking a major advance in a disease littered with failures.

Industry analysts at Jefferies said the success underscored the drug’s $1 billion-plus sales potential, although questions remain about adverse events. There is also potential competitor on the horizon in the form of Roche’s experimental treatment PLX4032.

Goldman Sachs raised Bristol to a “buy" from “neutral".

Roche reported results of a high-profile clinical study at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting in Chicago showing the benefits of its blockbuster drug Avastin in ovarian cancer.

However, the impact was limited since the company had previously announced the ovarian study had been positive and some investors were also concerned about questions by an outside expert at ASCO about the design of the study and its findings.

Deutsche Bank analyst Tim Race said a 3.8-month increase in the time women who continued treatment with Avastin lived without cancer growth was “solid but not stunning".

Avastin, which starves tumours of blood supply, is already a key weapon in the fight against colon, lung, breast and other types of cancers, but it has stumbled at key hurdles this year, failing in late-stage stomach and prostate cancer studies.

Roche stock was down 0.9% at 1040 GMT, broadly in line with the European healthcare sector.

Novartis shares were up 0.2%, following weekend news about two rivals to its leukaemia drug Gleevec — a competitor called from Srycel from Bristol-Myers and Novartis’s own follow-on product Tasigna.

Data at ASCO showed patients on both the new drugs did better than those on Gleevec.

However, analysts at Morgan Stanley said Tasigna appeared to have the edge, with superior safety and efficacy compared to Sprycel.

“Novartis continues to have the dominant portfolio in CML (chronic myelogenous leukaemia)," they wrote in a note.

Among biotech stocks, British minnow Antisoma, whose stock plunged 70% in March when a lung cancer drug it was developing with Novartis failed in a Phase III trial, saw a partial revival in its fortunes on hopes for other drugs in earlier-stage development.

Shares in Antisoma, which presented updates on both AS1413 and AS1411 at ASCO, rose 1.5 pence, or 22%, to 8.25p.