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ASCO Countdown: Conference Season In Full Bloom

Thursday, 15 May 2008 | 12:02 PM ET

This is gonna be a crazy couple of days. At 9 pm ET tonight the American Society of Clinical Oncology is putting nearly 5,000 studies on its website all at once.

Although ASCO says it's all about the science and protecting the "scientific integrity" of its upcoming conference, this is, frankly, an attempt to level the playing field for Wall Street.

In years' past ASCO has sent out a big, heavy book with all the data to around 25,000 of its member doctors and a bunch of reporters. But then investors would try to game the system and get some of those oncologists to hand over the book or tell them what's in it. Those alleged leaks manifested themselves in trading activity in the shares of certain biopharmas in the cancer space. For example, ImClone had a wild move up ahead of "embargoed" data being presented at least year's meeting.

So, pressure mounted on ASCO to find a better way. We'll see if it works. An ASCO spokesman says the group has upgraded its servers to handle all the traffic it expects tonight, but I haven't gotten a reply yet to a follow-up question about whether they've been tested to handle the surge.

My inbox is full of analyst research reports guiding clients about what to look for. Companies to watch, they say, include Genentech, Celgene, Ariad, Cougar, Medivation, Onyx, OSI Pharmaceuticals, Pfizer, Lilly, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Novartis just to name a handful. For laypeople, the study results which are called "abstracts" can be all Greek.

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So, analysts and doctors will be combing through the data tonight--many of them pulling college-style all-nighters--to interpret the numbers and make calls on them before the opening bell tomorrow morning. And buyer beware. These date were submitted for publication in January and many companies say they will be presenting new, updated and possibly different results at the ASCO conference itself at the end of the month.

And a reminder that not all of the stuff is coming out tonight. ASCO is not giving up some of the marquee studies so it'll still get some big media-play in Chicago. The expected headliner is ImClone/Bristol with survival data on their drug Erbitux in lung cancer.

And the fun doesn't stop there. The very next week is the American Diabetes Association meeting where LLY, Amylin Pharmaceuticals and Novo Nordisk will be presenting major study results on their late-stage experimental drugs.

Good times.

P.S. In yesterday's post I got my XM Radio ED-drug advertiser mixed up. MTabs is the one I hear all the time as I'm driving to work listening to "Squawk Box."

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com

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