Bristol plans big lung cancer study, pairing immunotherapies
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[March 05, 2014]
Bristol-Myers Squibb Co on Tuesday said it
plans this year to begin a late-stage trial testing whether a
combination of two of its high-profile immunotherapies can
effectively treat lung cancer, easing concerns about the company's
Company executives spooked investors in January by
saying they were not yet planning a late-stage trial that would
combine its experimental medicine, nivolumab, and an approved
melanoma treatment called Yervoy as a treatment for lung cancer.
The company's cautious timetable suggested to some investors a
possible lack of "synergy" between the two drugs when targeting lung
cancer. The medicines both enhance the immune system's ability to
But spirits lifted on Tuesday when Brian Daniels, senior vice
president of global development for Bristol-Myers, told investors at
the Cowen and Co healthcare conference in Boston that the Phase III
trial was indeed on track to begin by the end of 2014.
Alex Arfaei, an analyst with BMO Capital Markets, said insights from
an ongoing mid-stage trial of the drug combination, presumably
durable effectiveness and improved patient survival, had given
company officials confidence to move ahead with the costlier larger
Nivolumab is a member of an emerging new class of drugs that block a
protein called PD-1, thereby allowing the immune system to recognize
cancer cells and go after them. Merck & Co and Roche Holding AG are
developing similar drugs and all are believed capable of generating
annual sales in the billions of dollars, if approved.
Researchers believe combining the PD-1 inhibitors with other
therapies that harness the immune system or target cancer in other
ways could be the future of cancer care, in part because the
effectiveness of the new drugs does not quickly fall off as is the
case with many standard therapies.
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"We remain firmly of the view that Bristol-Myers will retain its
position as the leader in immuno-oncology (IO) as IO combinations
advance in melanoma, kidney, and lung cancer, and as new IO targeted
tumors emerge over the next 12-18 months," Leerink Partners analyst
Seamus Fernandez said in a research note.
Shares of Bristol-Myers rose 5.5 percent to $56.42 on the New York
Stock Exchange on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Ransdell Pierson and Bill
Berkrot; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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