Bristol-Myers Halts Trial Early After Kidney Cancer Success

Updated on

Bristol-Meyers Squibb Co. stopped a clinical trial of its drug Opdivo six months early after the therapy kept kidney-cancer patients alive longer compared with those taking a standard treatment.

In the late-stage study of 821 patients who had been previously treated for advanced renal cell carcinoma, Opdivo met the primary goal of improved survival, Bristol-Myers said Monday in a statement. The trial compared Opdivo with Novartis AG’s Afinitor, which had $1.58 billion in sales last year.

The results mark the first time an immuno-oncology drug, which harnesses the immune system, has shown the ability to help patients live longer, Bristol-Myers said.

Bristol-Myers has turned to cancer drugs for growth, with sales of Opdivo projected to reach $6.2 billion by 2020, or more than one-quarter of total revenue, according to analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. In February, the New York-based drugmaker agreed to buy Flexus Biosciences Inc. and Rigel Pharmaceuticals Inc. in deals valued at $1.6 billion to boost its oncology pipeline.

Renal cell carcinoma, the most common form of kidney cancer, kills more than 100,000 a year, Bristol-Myers said. There aren’t many options to treat those patients, and the five-year survival rate for people with advanced kidney cancer is 12 percent, the company said.

Shares Gain

Bristol-Meyers rose 1 percent to $69.97 in New York. The shares are up 42 percent over the last 12 months. The New York City-based company reports second-quarter earnings Thursday.

Opdivo is already approved by regulators to treat metastatic melanoma and previously treated squamous non-small cell lung cancer.

Separately, Exelixis Inc. said a late-stage study of its drug cabozantinib in advanced renal cell carcinoma met its goal of significantly improving how long it took patients’ cancer to get worse. The drug also appeared to prolong their lives. The company plans to file for regulatory approval for the treatment in Europe and the U.S. by early next year.

Exelixis, based in South San Francisco, California, climbed 50 percent to $5.88.