- Merck and Pfizer are enrolling patients to evaluate avelumab, a check-point inhibitor, in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
- Merck initially developed avelumab, and Pfizer spent $3 billion to buy into a collaborative development and commercialization deal for the candidate.
- Global approval is not expected until 2017 at the earliest.
Pfizer is joining a therapeutic area currently dominated by Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS). In addition, Roche and AstraZeneca are close to filing atezolizumab and durvalumab, respectively, putting them in third and fourth place in the immunotherapy race.
But despite the fact that there are already approved chemotherapeutic and immunotherapeutic treatments available for NSCLC, the disease is extremely difficult to treat. According to the American Cancer Society, NSCLC accounts for almost 85% of all lung cancers and is especially deadly. In fact, based on the latest statistics, the five-year survival rate for stage 4 NSCLC is only 1%.
The key to effective treatment in oncology is combination therapy and giving patients another treatment option when one treatment fails. Therefore, if avelumab is approved, it will be a welcome addition to the arsenal of treatments targeting NSCLC.