Melanoma Trial Halted Early; Keytruda Betters Yervoy

Currently, Keytruda is approved for patients with advanced melanoma previously treated with Yervoy and, in some patients, another type of drug as well. That second- and third-line status limits the number of patients eligible for the drug.

Advantage Merck in the melanoma immunotherapy race. The US-based company says its PD-1 drug Keytruda met its goals in a head-to-head study with Bristol-Myers Squibb's Yervoy (ipilimumab), dealing a blow to that company's growing immunotherapy franchise.

Even better, Keytruda bested Yervoy in previously untreated patients with advanced melanoma, a result that could lead to a bigger market for the Merck med.

Keytruda hit its primary endpoints not only for stalling cancer progression, but for extending patients' lives—so-called overall survival, a key measure for regulators, doctors and payers. Merck stopped the study, called KEYNOTE-006, after trial monitors decided the results were strong enough to prompt a halt.

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