Merck Drives Into Immunotherapy “Wild West” With New Trials
Company moves fast to test pembrolizumab in head and neck cancer, among other new frontier tumor types. The firm has reorganized its oncology business to prepare for launch in melanoma, which will be a critical test of the company’s ambitions to become a cancer powerhouse.
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Merck has pulled one Accelerated Approval indication for Keytruda already this year, and a second may have to be withdrawn as well. That will leave the product with 27 indications in the US – unless, of course, more are approved before the AA indications are formally pulled.
While still behind Merck’s pembrolizumab, Bristol could see back-to-back approvals in lung cancer and melanoma in early 2015.
Bristol’s combo demonstrates similar response rate as PD-1 alone, but with much better survival rates in a small melanoma study presented at ASCO. Due to toxicities, including one death, some say combination would need to shore up survival benefit to become first choice in frontline therapy.