Lung cancer is considered by analyst the biggest oncology market and indeed big pharma companies such as Bristol-Myers Squibb Co, so far perceived as the industry leader in immuno-oncology, Merck, AstraZeneca Plc and Roche Holding AG have rolled in.
Merck recently has recently surprised the market with the announcement that had filed for a speedy U.S. approval of its Keytruda, in combination with chemotherapy in first-line lung cancer, and had received a May 10 regulatory decision date.
On the other side Bristol-Myers has now declared that it would not seek accelerated approval of its Opdivo/Yervoy immunotherapy drug combination in first-line lung cancer.
The company did not say if this was due to disappointing data.
This has consolidated Merck & Co Inc’s leading position in the promising immuno-oncolgy field and left behind Bristol-Myer, leaving it, according to Credit Suisse analyst Vamil Divan, as the third or fourth entry instead of being first or a close second. As a result of this surprising announcement Merck shares rose 3.6 percent to $62.53, while Bristol fell to $49.23.
Divan added also that the Opdivo/Yervoy news “certainly kills any potential for commercial sales in front-line lung cancer for 2017”, but it hasn’t to be considered a point of no return for Opdivo or the combination if the data is ultimately positive. “This is lung cancer,” Divan said. “If the combo ends up showing clearly superior efficacy in terms of overall survival, then doctors will switch to that.”
Opdivo is approved for lung cancer in previously treated patients, as well as advanced melanoma, kidney and head and neck cancers and Hodgkin lymphoma.
Merck is likely not be be first with a first-line lung combination, but it could be less expensive due to the lower cost of chemotherapy versus rivals’ pairings of newer immuno-oncology drugs.
Some analysts suggested as the latest Opdivo setback was good news for AstraZeneca and Roche, allowing them to close the gap on Bristol-Myers.
However, Bernstein analyst Tim Anderson noted that Astra’s combination includes a CTLA4 drug similar to Bristol’s Yervoy.
“This could have negative implications for AstraZeneca, who similarly has CTLA4 combination at the heart of its IO platform,” he wrote. AstraZeneca shares fell 3.4 percent.
Source: Daily Mail