Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Merck Looking To Get Keytruda® To "First Line" Therapy -- In Lung Cancers; Partnering With Lilly

I think a more nuanced perspective here would be to very look closely at Lilly's pipeline, and finally admit that Lilly is simply trying to get something into the game, as it is, at present, so far behind on next gen immuno-based oncology track. In fact, Lilly may be essentially discounting its longer term future oncology pipeline here, just to get the candidates linked to Merck's Keytruda®, on the mental maps of FDA regulators -- and eventually, prescribing oncologists. Lilly is that far behind, truly.

Even so, this is good news for Merck -- as Merck gets a likely 2017 study result that may well be the basis for first line therapy in NSCLC. And we all know that's a goldmine. We've been saying right along that Merck will move to widen the oncology market-spaces for Keytruda, and this is clearly designed to do just that. A bit of the release, then:

. . . .Merck will conduct a Phase 2 study examining the combination of pembrolizumab with pemetrexed in first-line non-squamous, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). This study is currently enrolling.

Lilly will conduct a multiple-arm Phase 1/2 study examining the combination of ramucirumab with pembrolizumab in multiple tumors. This study is anticipated to begin in 2015.

Lilly will conduct a Phase 1/2 study examining the combination of necitumumab with pembrolizumab in NSCLC. This study is anticipated to begin in 2015. . . .

Financial details were not released, but this easily runs to the high hundreds of millions of dollars -- perhaps nearly a billion, life of deal. And still, in NSCLC, at least -- Opdivo® remains the clear leader -- the one to beat, in my experienced opinion.

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