Immunotherapies dominate the agenda at ASCO

|By:, SA News Editor

At this week's American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago, cancer immunotherapies are all the rage. Using the body's immune system to battle cancer is significantly extending survival times for a variety of cancers and has created the next frontier for blockbusters. Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY), Merck (MRK), Roche (RHHBY) and AstraZeneca (AZN) are all racing to bring their offerings to market.

Some caution is warranted, however. The drugs work for only a minority of patients and they frequently have significant side effects, especially when a combination of therapies is used. For example, in a trial of BMY's Yervoy for advanced lung cancer, half of the 46 patients in the trial suffered serious side effects and three died from the drugs themselves.