Bristol-Myers says key trial for lung cancer drug succeeds


Bristol-Myers Squibb said its immunotherapy Opdivo helped patients with a common type of lung cancer live longer without the disease worsening in an eagerly awaited late-stage study.

Shares fell 1 percent after trading up 3 percent in morning trade on Monday.

The company, which also reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings, said the trial was testing Opdivo in combination with its own drug Yervoy in patients with first-line non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Opdivo is going head to head with rival drugs from Merck, Roche and Astrazeneca in the multibillion-dollar cancer immunotherapy market. Shares in all three companies were down.

“It was hugely important that this trial succeed in some way for Bristol because first-line advanced lung cancer is such an important commercial opportunity,” said Brad Loncar, chief executive of Loncar Investments, which runs the Loncar Cancer Immunotherapy ETF.

“It is a much-needed win for their company and also perhaps a win for the science in general.”

The NSCLC patients being tested in the trial had high tumor mutation burden, “an important biomarker for the activity of immunotherapy,” Bristol-Myers said.

In the past, companies had been classifying patients on the terms of expression of a protein called PD-L1, but that had mixed success, according to Loncar.

An independent committee recommended that the study continue, based on an interim analysis for another main goal – overall survival, or helping patients survive longer while on the treatment, Bristol-Myers added.

Fourth-quarter net loss attributable was $2.33 billion compared with a year-ago profit of $894 million, as the drugmaker took a $2.9 billion charge.

Excluding one-time items, the company said it earned 68 cents per share in the quarter ended Dec. 31, analysts were expecting 67 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Sales of Opdivo came in at $1.36 billion, above the consensus estimate of $1.29 billion.

Blood thinner Eliquis’ sales rose nearly 44 percent to $1.36 billion.

The company forecast 2018 adjusted earnings per share of $3.15-$3.30. Analysts had expected $3.23 per share.

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