Bristol lung-cancer setback puts rival Merck drug in driver seat

By Ransdell Pierson and Bill Berkrot

New data is likely to prompt doctors to abandon Bristol-Myers Squibb’s immunotherapy Opdivo in favor of Merck & Co’s rival Keytruda in a large segment of the lucrative lung cancer market, analysts said on Monday. The results of a closely watched clinical trial sent Bristol’s shares plunging 10 percent. The data, presented at a medical meeting on Sunday, showed that lung cancer patients fared worse on Opdivo than those on chemotherapy. Merck shares rose nearly 2 percent on strong benefits shown by Keytruda in a similar late-stage lung cancer study.

Both trials tested the drugs that help the immune system to recognize and fight cancer as an initial treatment for advanced lung cancer. They are already approved for patients whose disease had progressed following chemotherapy, but approval as a so called first-line…

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