After lengthy delay, BMS plans starring ASCO role for melanoma drug

An experimental immunotherapy skin cancer drug from Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY) will get star treatment at the upcoming ASCO confab. Observers will get a close look at new data on ipilimumab, which has extended the lives of metastatic melanoma patients in three small clinical trials and may be up for an approval in 2011.

"We have hundreds of patients who are still alive after taking this treatment, and that is something unheard of" in advanced-stage melanoma, Renzo Canetta, Bristol-Myers's vice president of oncology clinical research, tells Bloomberg. About a third of the patients in the study were alive for at least 18 months, notes the business news service, which is a year longer than current therapies can provide.

The drug blocks CTLA-4, allowing a burst of white blood cells that can attack tumors. And it's one of a new generation of immunotherapies now in the pipeline. The program had been developed at Medarex, which BMS acquired for $2.4 billion in 2009.

Analysts have had to be patient with ipilimumab. Medarex and BMS, which had collaborated on the program, had once discussed filing a BLA for melanoma in 2008 but decided to delay the application in order to get more data demanded by the FDA.

- here's the article from Bloomberg