Lung cancer survival rates improve with the medication Keytruda.
Merck & Co’s (MRK.N) blockbuster drug Keytruda helped previously untreated lung cancer patients live longer in a late-stage trial, potentially cementing its position as the dominant player in the lucrative lung cancer market.
Shares of the drugmaker were up 3.1 percent at $55.07.
Merck is already considered the frontrunner in the space and Keytruda is expected to earn peak sales of over $10 billion in 2023, according to Credit Suisse.
Keytruda is already approved in the U.S. to treat patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who have not received prior therapies and whose tumors show PD-L1 protein levels of 50 percent or greater.
If the company can show that the new data benefits patients whose PD-L1 expression is between 1 and 49 percent, it would expand Keytruda’s market and raise the competitive benchmark for rivals Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY.N) and AstraZeneca Plc (AZN.L), BMO Capital Markets analyst Alex Arfaei said.
An independent data monitoring committee determined the trial, which tested Keytruda as a monotherapy to treat NSCLC, extended the lives of patients significantly compared to chemotherapy.
Additional data from Merck, as well as results from trials of competitors, could eventually determine which companies will snatch the largest slice of the pie for the lung cancer market.
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