Cancer Checkpoint Race Takes Turn With BMS’ New Lung Trial, Merck’s Rolling Melanoma BLA
Bristol-Myers Squibb’s launch of a new Phase III lung cancer study of nivolumab monotherapy in those with high expression of PD-L1 lung cancer patients raises questions about the role of the biomarker and the possibility of combination therapy with Yervoy. The PD-L1 biomarker is still being evaluated and strategies are likely to differ depending on drug and tumor type.
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Since being promoted to chief scientific officer of Bristol-Myers Squibb, effective July 2013, company veteran Francis Cuss says he has aimed for continuity while staying flexible to respond to breaking science. In an interview at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in January, he explains the company’s thinking when it comes to focusing on particular disease areas with the highest unmet need and potential for speedy development.
Merck plans to enrich its Phase II study for MK-3475 with patients whose tumors express PD-L1; Bristol would take all comers in its Phase I/II trial of nivolumab.
Lung cancer wasn’t viewed traditionally as a tumor that would respond to immunotherapy. But with checkpoint inhibitor data looking promising, big pharma is diving in and prioritizing the disease, reeled in by the large patient population and high unmet need.