Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Bristol Myers Squibb's Cancer Combo Gets a Green Light from the FDA

By Cory Renauer – May 16, 2020 at 10:43AM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Opdivo plus Yervoy has a chance to challenge Keytruda for a share of newly diagnosed lung cancer patients.

Lung cancer patients in advanced stages of the disease received a new first-line treatment option on Friday. The FDA has approved the combination of Opdivo plus Yervoy from Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY -0.42%) as a treatment for patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) tumors that express programmed death-ligand one (PD-L1) on at least 1% of their cells. 

Lung cancer isn't the most commonly diagnosed malignancy, but it claims more lives than any other, and NSCLC cases comprise around 85% of all lung cancer diagnoses. As a first-line treatment for NSCLC patients, annual sales of Opdivo's top competitor, Keytruda from Merck (MRK), soared 55% in 2019 to $11.1 billion largely due to first-line NSCLC patients that tend to remain on therapy much longer than patients that have already relapsed.  

Smiling laboratory employee.

Image source: Getty Images.

Competition for Keytruda's NSCLC position? 

In the first quarter of 2020, Opdivo sales slid 2% compared to the previous year period to an annualized $7.1 billion. Although it's Bristol's third-largest revenue stream at the moment, this first-line NSCLC expansion could make the Opdivo plus Yervoy combination Bristol's lead growth driver in the second half of 2020.

Opdivo plus Yervoy were specifically approved to treat advanced-stage NSCLC patients with PD-L1 positive tumors that don't display epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations or anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) mutations. Keytruda is approved to treat the same group as a monotherapy and in combination with standard chemotherapy regardless of PD-L1 status. Keytruda plus chemo is also approved to treat around a third of NSCLC patients sub-classified as squamous regardless of their EGFR, and ALK mutation status.

Cory Renauer has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Bristol Myers Squibb. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

Bristol Myers Squibb Stock Quote
Bristol Myers Squibb
BMY
$70.91 (-0.42%) $0.30
Merck & Co. Stock Quote
Merck & Co.
MRK
$88.39 (%)

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
342%
 
S&P 500 Returns
110%

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 10/06/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.