Bristol-Myers Squibb says melanoma drug Yervoy extends patients' lives by up to 10 years

Bristol-Myers Squibb said Friday that Yervoy (ipilimumab) extended the lives of patients with metastatic or locally advanced or unresectable melanoma by as much as 10 years. "This pooled analysis reinforces the long-term survival data seen in the individual studies and provides additional insight into the overall survival of metastatic melanoma patients treated with Yervoy," said Brian Daniels, senior vice president of global development and medical affairs at Bristol-Myers Squibb.

In the study, results from which were presented at the European Cancer Congress, researchers analysed data on 1861 patients participating in 10 mid- and late-stage trials and two observational studies. Data showed that patient survival reached a plateau beginning at three years, with follow-up extending as long as 10 years for some patients. Approximately 22 percent of patients remained alive after three years, including about 26 percent of treatment-naïve and 20 percent of previously-treated patients. Study author F. Stephen Hodi described the findings as "encouraging, particularly when considering that metastatic melanoma is one of the most aggressive forms of cancer and historically, average survival was just six to nine months." The data "provide a benchmark for future medicines for advanced melanoma," he added.

Bristol-Myers Squibb is currently investigating Yervoy in combination with the anti-PD1 monoclonal antibody nivolumab for the treatment of advanced melanoma. In study data released earlier this year, 82 percent of 53 patients who received the combination therapy remained alive after one year. Gustave Roussy Institute director general Alexander Eggermont suggested that the addition of anti-PD1 drugs could double or triple survival rates and make advanced melanoma potentially curable for half of patients in the next five to 10 years. Roche and Merck & Co. are both developing similar combination therapies, although JPMorgan Chase analyst Chris Schott suggested that Bristol-Myers Squibb is "well in the lead."

Yervoy garnered FDA approval in March 2011 as a monotherapy for patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma. Analysts project that the drug will amass $1.1 billion in sales this year and become Bristol-Myers Squibb's top-selling therapy by 2016.

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