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BMS melanoma combo impresses at ASCO

Increases survival in difficult to treat form of skin cancer

BMS HQBristol-Myers Squibb has announced strong results for a new combination therapy using its immunotherapies Yervoy (ipilimumab) and newly approved Opdivo (nivolumab) for the deadliest form of skin cancer.

The phase III trial (CheckMate-067) was assessing the US firm's two treatments as a dual regimen pitting Opdivo monotherapy against Yervoy in combination with Opdivo in patients with previously untreated advanced melanoma. 

Both the PD-1 drug Opdivo and older skin cancer immunotherapy Yervoy regimen showed superiority when compared to Yervoy, the current standard of care. 

The combination therapy improved progression-free survival (PFS) by a median of 11.5 months compared to 6.9 months for Opdivo on its own, with just 2.9 months for Yervoy monotherapy. 

The dual therapy regimen demonstrated a 58% reduction in the risk of disease progression versus Yervoy, which was first approved by the FDA in 2011.   

The data were presented at the US cancer conference ASCO in Chicago over the weekend. 

Jedd Wolchok, chief of the melanoma and immunotherapeutics service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, said: “A significant milestone in cancer research, Checkmate -067 is the first phase III trial to demonstrate improved outcomes for a PD-1 immune checkpoint inhibitor administered as monotherapy and in combination with another Immuno-Oncology agent vs. the standard of care for treatment of first-line patients with advanced melanoma.

“The trial also provided critical insight into the relationship between PD-L1 expression and treatment with these agents with respect to progression-free survival. 

“The Opdivo/Yervoy regimen significantly improved progression-free survival for patients whose tumours are low- or non-expressers of PD-L1, as compared to Opdivo or Yervoy monotherapy. This finding offers a clearer path for clinicians considering the most appropriate Immuno-Oncology treatment approach for a patient.”

BMS will hope that this combination therapy will help it gain greater market share from fierce rival Merck & Co who sell a rival PD-1 melanoma drug in the form of Keytruda.

Both drugs were approved in the past year but Merck & Co beat BMS to the punch with an earlier FDA nod. But analysts still expect Opdivo to have the greater sales impact given its promise in other cancers.

The entire class of PD-1 medicines are expected to be worth around $30bn by 2020.

Article by
Ben Adams

1st June 2015

From: Research



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