Oct 1 Early data from a small trial of Merck &
Co Inc's experimental immunotherapy cancer drug, known
as MK-3475, showed that about a quarter of lung cancer patients
responded to the treatment.
Data from the trial is slated for presentation in Sydney,
Australia, later this month at the World Conference on Lung
Cancer, Merck said in a statement on Tuesday.
The antibody drug, once known as lambrolizumab, is part of a
new class of compounds designed to block the activity of a
receptor on immune cells called programmed death 1 or PD-1. The
aim of the drugs is to spur the body's own immune system to
attack cancer cells.
"The data for now suggest relatively similar response rates
in NSCLC (non-small cell lung cancer) for Merck's '3475,
Bristol's nivolumab and Roche's MPDL3280A as single
agents," JP Morgan analyst Chris Schott said in a research note.
"With lung cancer representing the largest potential market for
PD-1 therapy, we will closely watch how data in the space
Merck said results from 38 patients whose cancer had stopped
responding to earlier rounds of treatment showed that 24 percent
had an immune-system response to the drug. The trial also showed
that 21 percent of patients experienced tumor shrinkage.
The most common side effects seen in the trial were fatigue,
rash, itching and diarrhea.
Earlier on Tuesday, Merck said it would cut annual operating
costs by $2.5 billion and eliminate 8,500 jobs.
Its shares rose 2.4 percent to close at $48.74 on the New York
Schott said Bristol-Myers Squibb Co is still leading
the race to develop PD-1 drugs, with more data on nivolumab also
expected at the Sydney conference.