Bristol-Myers claims ASCO spotlight with promising PD-1 drug data

CHICAGO - Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) was out early Saturday with positive data on BMS-936558, its anti-PD-1 drug obtained in its buyout of Medarex. The treatment spurred tumor shrinkage in three of five cancer groups studied, including 18% of 72 lung cancer patients, close to a third of 98 melanoma patients and 27% of 33 patients with kidney cancer. 

BMS already gained an approval for the pioneering Yervoy in melanoma, also snagged in the Medarex buyout. The significance here is that BMS-936558--which disarms PD-1, preventing it from stopping an attack by the immune system's T cells--appears less toxic and more effective than Yervoy. This is a very early-stage program, but the treatment has emerged as one of the most closely-watched drugs to come out of ASCO. Some analysts believe the treatment may be on track to emerge as a possible blockbuster therapy with multiple uses in oncology. 

Bristol-Myers also reports that some patients "experienced stable disease for six months or more, including five of 76 (7 percent) lung cancer patients, six of 94 (6 percent) melanoma patients and 9 of 33 (27 percent) kidney cancer patients." And based in part on the data offered at ASCO, an aggressive Bristol plans to push into a late-stage, pivotal study.

"This level of response in patients with advanced lung cancer, which is typically not responsive to immune-based therapies, was unexpected and notable," says Julie Brahmer, M.D., associate professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins. 

I wrote up this program recently. You can read the report here.

- here's the press release