- When Merck's Keytruda (pembrolizumab) was compared with Bristol-Myers Squibb's Yervoy (ipilimumab) in head-to-head trials for treatment of advanced melanoma, Keytruda outperformed the BMS cancer therapy.
- The primary endpoints of the trial included delaying cancer progression and extending overall survival.
- Both Keytruda and Yervoy are part of a class of cancer immunotherapy drugs (Keytruda is a PD-1 inhibitor and Yervoy is a CTLA-4 antibody).
Currently, Keytruda is approved for treatment of previously treated patients with advanced melanoma. However, based on this data, Merck would like to expand the indication from a second- and third-line use to first-line use in advanced melanoma patients. Not only were the Keytruda results superior to Yervoy in terms of clinical outcomes, but according to Merck, they were "statistically significant and clinically meaningful."
In related news, BMS received an FDA approval for use of Opdivo (nivolumab), also a PD-1 inhibitor, for treatment of squamous non-cell lunch cancer (NSCLC). The cancer immunotherapy race is on—and there are winners all around, including patients.