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Bristol Myers Squibb Co. (BMY), Gilead Sciences, Inc. (GILD), Halozyme Therapeutics, Inc. (HALO): 3 Stocks to Watch Ahead of ASCO

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At the annual ASCO meeting in Chicago, thousands of health-care researchers and professionals unite to advance cancer treatment. This year’s meeting takes place next weekend, and its presentations will be important not only to those who work in cancer research, but also to Wall Street. Here are three promising stocks I’ll be watching closely as the conference unfolds.

Bristol Myers Squibb Co. (NYSE:BMY)New Age Of Immune-Suppressing Agents Under The Microscope

Dendreon’s Provenge made waves in the treatment of cancer as a true medical breakthrough when it effectively used the immune system to fight cancer. Now, the next generation of immunotherapy is taking this practice one step further – keeping cancer cells from being able to hide from the immune system.

The new class of drugs, which act against cellular signals known as PD-1 and PDL-1, are being developed by Bristol Myers Squibb Co. (NYSE:BMY), Roche, and Merck. Personally, I am most excited to see Bristol Myers Squibb Co. (NYSE:BMY) present data on its Phase 3 drug nivolumab, which is closest to reaching the market. (Its FDA approval is expected in late 2014 or early 2015.)

Nivolumab has the potential to treat a vast array of cancers. At ASCO, Bristol Myers Squibb Co. (NYSE:BMY) will be presenting data for a Phase 1 study of nivolumad combined with Yervoy to treat melanoma. In a 52-patient study, patients with advanced melanoma saw an overall tumor shrinkage rate of 40%.

However, the company’s most advanced study with nivolumab is in treating advanced non-small cell lung cancer. There, it produced an overall survival of 9.6 months, which is 30% better than standard-of-care. It’s also produced a 22-month overall survival rate in patients with advanced kidney cancer; compared to 20 months for the current standard of care. Thus, I am excited to see what the company produces regarding this drug at ASCO.

I am anxious to hear the company’s remarks and its outlook for the drug when used both alone and with Yervoy. If it works effectively on three major cancers, nivolumab could not only save lives, but also produce great revenue.

For lung cancer alone, the drug is expected to produce sales north of $1 billion. Add melanoma, kidney cancer, and its combination with Yervoy, and Bristol Myers Squibb Co. (NYSE:BMY) could bring in as much as $5 billion annually. Considering that the company as a whole booked $16.2 billion in revenue over the last 12 months, that makes nivolumab a very important drug for its future.

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