Merck & Co. (NYSE: MRK) and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (NYSE: BMY) both announced their late stage clinical trial results for their immunotherapy. Wall Street was more impressed by Merck’s results, sending shares 2.8 percent higher, while Bristol shares plummeted by 7.9 percent on Monday.
Both treatments are to boost the immune system to combat against lung cancer cells, but Merck’s Keytruda outshined Bristol’s combination of Opdivo and Yervoy.
Merck’s Keytruda cut the risk of death by 51 percent, compared to chemotherapy and delayed disease worsening, according to its data. Bristol’s Opdivo data, along with its Yervoy, reduced the risk of death by 42 percent compared to the same treatments as Keytruda.
After a median follow-up of 10.5 months, Merck’s drug reported a median overall survival of 11.3 months. After 12 months, 69.2 percent of Keytruda patients survived compared to 49.4 percent for chemotherapy, researchers said.
Bristol’s trial, CheckMate-227, reported 43 percent of patients with high tumor mutational burden (TMB) compared to 13 percent of those receiving chemotherapy.
The overall response rate to significant tumor shrinkage was 45 percent compared to 27 percent receiving chemotherapy. After 12 months, 68 percent of Opdivo and Yervoy patients continued to benefit from the therapy.
In both studies, the results were not dependent on the cell’s levels of PD-L1, which is usually combined with drugs like Keytruda and Opdivo.
"People clearly are living longer," Merck Research Laboratories President Roger Perlmutter said in an interview. "That's a very dramatic result."
“Lung cancer is a highly complex disease, defined by multiple subtypes, making it increasingly important to define a more precise treatment approach for this disease,” said Sabine Maier, development lead, thoracic cancers, Bristol-Myers Squibb. “These results are an example of our goal to understand each patient type through our leading translational research capabilities.”
Although Merck had topped Bristol, both still surpassed Cowen Research analysts’ forecast of 30 percent.