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MSD’s Keytruda twice as successful against standard therapy for lung cancer

Published on 10/10/16 at 10:11am

MSD, known as Merck in North America, released data that displayed the success of their drug, Keytruda, in a 123-patient study. The results displayed that 55% percent of patients saw their tumours reduce in size using a treatment regimen of Keytruda and two chemotherapy drugs. This compares to 29% who used chemotherapy drugs alone. The trial also revealed that those treated with Keytruda also had a longer period before the disease started growing again and had a lower risk of death.

“Our research in immuno-oncology continues to show tremendous promise, with our goal being to extend the lives of significant numbers of patients with non-small cell lung cancer,” said Roger Dansey, M.D., senior vice president and therapeutic area head, oncology late-stage development, Merck Research Laboratories, on the release of the study data. “In this longer-term analysis of KEYNOTE-010, among patients who responded to treatment, four times as many patients receiving Keytruda were still alive without disease progression compared to docetaxel. It is gratifying to see these results continue with additional follow-up.”

This positive news for MSD may help reposition them in the fight between themselves and Bristol-Myers Squibb to dominate the area of immunotherapy treatment. Bristol owns the other immunotherapy drug, Opdivo, on the market. Opdivo has so far outsold Keytruda, with global sales of $1.54 billion for the first half of 2016 compared with Keytruda’s sales of $563 million. However, Opdivo was recently hit by the news of a failure as a first-line treatment to differentiate itself statistically against standard treatment.

The news should help Keytruda’s case in becoming a treatment available on the NHS, after its rejection by NICE on cost grounds last week.

Ben Hargreaves

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