CHICAGO (TheStreet) -- Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) , Roche (RHHBY) and Merck (MRK) are each developing a new generation of cancer drugs that work by dismantling a cloaking mechanism used by cancer cells to hide from a patient's immune system. Bristol-Myers' Yervoy was the first of these drugs to be approved for melanoma in 2011 but the newer drugs, which act against cellular signals known as PD-1 and PDL-1, may be more potent in melanoma and have broader use against lung, kidney and breast cancer.
A preview of early-stage clinical trial results on these immune-boosting cancer drugs was released Wednesday night ahead of next month's American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting. Ultimately, PD-1 and PDL-1 drugs could generate billions of dollars in new sales for Bristol-Myers, Roche and Merck if early results are confirmed in ongoing and larger phase III studies.
In a long-term followup to a separate phase I study, nivolumab, when used on its own, contributed to median overall survival of 9.6 months and one-year survival of 43% for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer; median overall survival of 16.8 months and one-year survival of 61% for patients with melanoma; and a greater than 22 month median overall survival and 70% one-year survival for kidney cancer cancer patients. Phase III studies of nivolumab are already underway.
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