BMS leans on new long-term Opdivo data in crowded kidney cancer field

Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Opdivo-Yervoy combo is competing in an increasingly crowded space when it comes to previously untreated kidney cancer. But the company is leaning on long-term data to help set its regimen apart.

More than half—56%—of patients treated with the pairing were alive at the 42-month mark, compared with 47% of those taking Pfizer’s Sutent, the New Jersey drugmaker showed over the weekend at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Genitourinary Cancers Symposium.

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More patients responded to Bristol-Myers’ combo than to Sutent, too, at 39% versus 33%, respectively. What’s more, 11% of those in the combo arm saw their cancer completely vanish—compared with just 2% of Sutent patients—and 86% of patients in that group still showed no signs of cancer at the 42-month mark.

“Patients want a cure. That’s what they’re looking for. A path to a cure is largely through these deep, durable responses, and we’re seeing” Opdivo and Yervoy in the first-line setting “at a level that is completely unprecedented,” Brian Lamon, BMS VP and development lead for genitourinary cancers, said.

BMS—which was quick to point out that it has the longest-term immuno-oncology data in the front-line arena—is hoping the results will grab the attention of physicians, who as of last year have a couple of other options for treating new kidney cancer patients. In particular, analysts flagged a combination of Merck’s Keytruda and Pfizer’s Inlyta as the future go-to when it won FDA approval last April.

“Based on our conversations with experts, we expect the combo to quickly be adopted in the majority of new patients,” Credit Suisse analyst Vamil Divan, M.D., wrote to clients at the time.

RELATED: Merck heaps early pressure on Bristol-Myers' Opdivo with Keytruda's kidney cancer debut

The growing array of options was a “hot topic” at ASCO GU, Lamon said, adding that some patients are still getting TKI options such as Sutent, while some are getting I-O-TKI combos and some are getting Bristol-Myers’ all-I-O duo.

“It’s good that patients have these options,” Lamon said, but “then the question is, in a potentially crowded space, where do you pivot toward? For us, we pivot to the data.”

While the first-line field is a bigger sales opportunity thanks to a larger group of patients that tends to stay on therapy for longer, Bristol-Myers also trotted out data to help shore up its position in the second-line setting. At the five-year mark, 26% of patients treated with solo Opdivo were still alive, the company said.

“We’re offering patients this opportunity for, if not a cure, certainly long-term survival in both the first and second-line settings,” Lamon said.