>> Investors placing their bets in the battle against lung cancer. Merck winning the latest around against US rival Bristol Myers Squibb. New clinical trials showing the German pharma giant's immunotherapy drug Keytruda, delays tumor growth in previously untreated cases and cut overall deaths by 40% compared to chemotherapy alone in pre-selected patients.
The news sending Merck shares to a 15 year high. In contrast, Bristol shares plunged 10% on Monday after its similar clinical trial failed. Reuters European Pharmaceuticals Correspondent Ben Hirschler is in Copenhagen where both companies are attending a summit.>> Basically Merck's new drug works very well in a minority of patients with a certain bio-marker and Bristol's drug has failed in treating all cumbers in initially treated lung cancer.
And what the big focus here now is is on combination therapies, how do you mix drugs together in order to help the body fight back against tumor cells more effectively?>> Immunotherapy works by enlisting the body's own immune system to destroy tumor cells. A far less toxic alternative to chemo.
It's a new class of drug and has been hailed as a game changer for some cancers like skin, head, and neck. Now the race is on for companies to create a cocktail of drugs to tackle lung. Both Merck's and Bristol's drugs are already approved for advanced lung cancer patients.
But approval as a so called first line therapy could boost the number of patients taking the drug. Analysts now think that Merck has a big head-start.