4. Opdivo

Opdivo's lucrative pairing with Yervoy has scored a number of FDA approvals. (Bristol Myers Squibb)

Company: Bristol Myers Squibb
2019 sales: $8.06 billion
Projected 2026 sales: $11.62 billion
Projected CAGR: +5%
Used for: melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer, small cell lung cancer, kidney cancer, Hodgkin lymphoma, head and neck cancer, bladder cancer, colorectal cancer, liver cancer, esophageal cancer

Chasing the same indications as a world-beater like Merck & Co.'s Keytruda is no easy task, but Bristol Myers Squibb's sales superstar Opdivo has held its own in the lucrative immuno-oncology field. Unlike Keytruda, however, Opdivo has snared a number of new indications combined with Bristol's Yervoy, a joint strategy that could keep boosting the company's overall cancer sales in the coming years. 

Opdivo hit $8.06 billion in 2019 and could be set for 5% growth each year through 2026, Evaluate Pharma predicts. That would boost the PD-L1 inhibitor to $11.62 billion in sales that year, by Evaluate's lights. 

Opdivo's teamwork with checkpoint inhibitor Yervoy has paid dividends for Bristol, and the tandem has continued to pay off with new indications this year—including a better-late-than-never OK in the all-important lung cancer market.

RELATED: Bristol Myers Squibb finally breaks into first-line lung cancer with Opdivo-Yervoy nod

In May of this year, the FDA finally approved the Bristol duo for first-line non-small cell lung cancer patients whose tumors test positive for biomarker PD-L1, giving patients a chemo-free option and the company a crack at a sales boost. The approval was based on data showing the duo cut the risk of death among PD-L1 positive patients by 21%.

The combination of Opdivo, a PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor, and Yervoy, which targets CTLA4, shows "the unique features of CTLA4," Fouad Namouni, head of oncology R&D at Bristol-Myers. That pivotal data, from Part 1 of the phase 3 Checkmate-227 trial unveiled at last year's ESMO meeting, showed "not just good response rates, but more importantly the depth and durability of response," he said at the time.

RELATED: ASCO: Bristol Myers Squibb, awaiting Opdivo-Yervoy approval, trumpets 3-year lung cancer survival win

But also in May, Bristol touted the long-term safety of the Opdivo-Yervoy combo as a selling point over Keytruda, unveiling three-year data from the Checkmate-227 trial showing the pair still cut the risk of death by 21% among lung cancer patients whose tumors tested positive for biomarker PD-L1. 

4. Opdivo