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Keytruda success continues, beating Opdivo in lung cancer survival

Not content with revealing two strong waves of data on its flagship immunotherapy Keytruda (pembrolizumab) over the past weeks, MSD is once again flexing its product’s muscles, this time unveiling that the anti-PD-1 drug has excelled in combination with chemotherapy in the first-line treatment of metastatic nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Keytruda continues success with new Phase 3 data in adjuvant melanoma

MSD has revealed new efficacy data for Keytruda (permbrolizumab) as an adjuvant therapy in the treatment of resected, high-risk stage III melanoma. It is the third such reveal in weeks, following the drug’s success as a monotherapy in NSCLC with any PD-L1 expression but failure as a combo therapy in unresectable or metastatic melanoma.

Keytruda scores big as a first-line monotherapy in NSCLC patients with any level of PD-L1 expression

Closely following the news that Keytruda (pembrolizumab) had failed in the treatment of unresectable or metastatic melanoma as a combination therapy with Incyte’s epacadostat, MSD announced that its blockbuster immunotherapy drug hit its primary endpoint as a monotherapy in the first-line treatment of locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in patients expressing any level of PD-L1.

Keytruda combo fails at Phase 3 in metastatic melanoma

Shares in biopharma firm Incyte were sent reeling by as much as 20% when the company announced that the results of a Phase 3 study had revealed that its IDO1 inhibitor epacadostat, when applied in combination with MSD’s Keytruda (pembrolizumab), failed to meet its primary endpoint of improving progression-free survival (PFS) in patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma compared to Keytruda alone.

NICE recommends Keytruda via CDF as first and only urothelial carcinoma immunotherapy

UK drugs watchdog NICE has published its finance guidance recommending the use of MSD’s Keytruda (pembrolizumab) on the NHS through the Cancer Drugs Fund for the treatment of locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma in adults who have had platinum-containing chemotherapy. The decision makes the drug the first and only immunotherapy to be approved for use on the health service by the agency.

Eisai and MSD team up to combine Lenvima and Keytruda in cancer

Pharma heavyweights MSD (Merck) and Eisai have announced they are to join forces to develop and commercialise the latter’s tyrosine kinase inhibitor Lenvima (lenvatinib mesylate), both as a monotherapy and in combination with MSD’s blockbuster immunotherapy Keytruda (pembrolizumab) in the treatment of a range of cancers. Subject to sales, the alliance could be worth as much as $5.76 billion for the Japanese firm.

Japan saves record $12.2bn in 2017 through greater generic use

Through a concerted shift from branded drugs to generic equivalents as a means to lower prescription costs, Japan is estimated to have saved ¥1.3 trillion ($12.2 billion) throughout the course of the fiscal year 2017 – the biggest recorded reduction and 40% more than projections for 2015, according to the nation’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW).

MSD poised to acquire viral immuno-oncology firm Viralytics for $394m

MSD, known as Merck in the US, has announced it is to buy Australian viral immuno-oncology firm Viralytics for $394 million – 160% of the company’s average stock price over the last month – provided it isn’t outbid by a competitor.

MSD’s interim Keytruda combo data spooks Roche and BMS

When PD-1/L1 treatments first came on the market, there was a race to snaffle as many indications as possible for the therapies. Since then, the market has moved on again and the new competition is to see which company can get a combination therapy onto the market first.

AstraZeneca, notoriously, tried and fail – failing to boost progression-free survival (PFS) in first line non-small cell lung cancer, with its shares tanking by 16% of the news.

Keytruda falls hard at gastric cancer hurdle

There was a time when PD-1/L1 immunotherapy treatments could do no wrong, blasting through indication after indication. However, the limits of the therapies are beginning to be found with a series of surprise failures across a number of indications.

The first major one was Opdivo’s failure as first-line treatment in lung cancer, after this ice-breaker, of sorts, there have been a number of subsequent failures that have called into question how far the treatments can be pushed.

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