(Reuters) – Merck & Co’s (MRK.N) blockbuster drug Keytruda helped previously untreated lung cancer patients live longer in a late-stage trial, potentially cementing its position as the dominant player in the lucrative lung cancer market.
Shares of the drugmaker were up 3.1 percent at $55.07.
Merck is already considered the frontrunner in the space and Keytruda is expected to earn peak sales of over $10 billion in 2023, according to Credit Suisse.
An independent data monitoring committee determined the trial, which tested Keytruda as a monotherapy to treat NSCLC, extended the lives of patients significantly compared to chemotherapy.
Additional data from Merck, as well as results from trials of competitors, could eventually determine which companies will snatch the largest slice of the pie for the lung cancer market.
“Because we don’t know the full data set we don’t know the survival benefit here.”
Based on a recommendation from the committee, the trial will continue to evaluate a secondary goal on whether the treatment can delay the disease from progressing.
Keytruda, which is approved to treat several other forms of cancer including skin and blood cancer, racked up $3.81 billion in revenue in 2017.
Lung cancer is the second most common cancer and is expected to kill over 154,000 people this year, the American Cancer Society says. NSCLC accounts for about 85 percent of all lung cancer cases, Merck said.
Shares of Bristol-Myers fell 2.3 percent to $59.43.
April 9, 2018