- Immuno-oncology drugs were a big deal at this year's American Society of Hematology meeting in San Francisco, where Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb highlighted clinical trials results for PD-1 inhibitors Keytruda (pembrolizumab) and Opdivo (nivolumab), respectively.
- Keytruda was approved for the secondary treatment of advanced melanoma on September 4 and is being studied for use as monotherapy and as part of combination therapy in more than 30 cancers, including blood-based cancers.
- In a small study of patients with advanced Hodgkin's lymphoma, treatment with Keytruda yielded a 66% overall response rate in early-stage trials, while Opdivo generated an 87% response rate.
When people think of immuo-oncology, Keytruda is often the first drug to come to mind, because it is the first FDA-approved PD-1 inhibitor. However, immuno-oncology is a burgeoning field and BMS is aggressively pursuing an approval for Opdivo, also a PD-1 inhibitor.
While Keytruda has very positive top-line results from its Hodgkin lyphoma trials, BMS reported even better results for Opdivo at this year's American Society of Hematology meeting, with an 87% response rate in Hodgkin lymphoma patients.
Of course, these are just small, early stage trials, so it's much too soon to write off one treatment or the other. But it highlights that the game is on in the immuno-oncology arena, with Merck and BMS in top spots (BMS is still awaiting FDA approval of Opdivo), and other companies, such as Roche and AstraZeneca, rapidly developing their own arsenal of treatments.