- Opdivo (nivolumab) from Bristol-Myers Squibb is a PD-inhibitor currently in clinical trials for treatment of patients with late-stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). In the trials, 41% of Opdivo-treated patients survived at least a year, compared with a historical survival rate of 5.5% to 18%.
- Study participants who demonstrated this rate of survival had already been treated with two prior treatments where therapy had ultimately failed.
- The PD-1 inhibitor class of cancer drugs are part of a rapidly emerging group of immunotherapeutic treatments. There is intense competition from companies such as Roche, Novartis, and Merck, which was the first to market with its PD-1 inhibitor, Keytruda, a drug that was approved in early September for treatment of advanced melanoma and is also being fast-tracked for treatment in NSCLC patients.
The results of the Opdivo trial in patients with squamous cell NSCLC were exciting not only for clinical trial investigators and the patients involved, but also for investors. BMS's stock was up 8.9% on the news—the largest increase in stock price (it went up to $58.98) since October 2008.
The excitement stems from the unprecedented survival rates. Furthermore, the increased tolerability of this class of drugs and the fact that 159,000 people die each year from lung cancer—a very hard-to-treat disease—makes it clear just why investors are so bullish.