It’s the first major treatment for metastatic squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) to have been approved in over a decade in Europe: Bristol-Myers Squibb’s PD-1 immune checkpoint inhibitor Nivolumab was granted with market authorization by the European Commission. The drug is the first to improve overall survival in previously-treated metastatic NSCLC.
Just one month ago, BMS was granted with the first ever EU approval for its PD-1 inhibitor for the treatment of advanced melanoma. The same drug has now been authorized on the European market to treat patients suffering from metastatic NSCLC after prior chemotherapy.
Nivolumab not only reduces the risk of cancer by 41% versus the standard treatment alternative, docetaxel, but also enabled twice as many individuals to have survived the first year in comparison to chemotherapy (42% vs. 24%). Treatment-related adverse events also occur less frequently with nivolumab (58%) than its alternative docetaxel (86%). According to BMS, the inhibitor has therefore the potential to replace the current standard of care.
In Europe, incidence and mortality rates linked to lung cancer are on the rise, currently accounting for 20% of all cancer deaths. NSCLC is one of the most common types of the disease and embodies approximately 85% of all lung cancer cases. For patients with NSCLC, whose disease reoccurs or progresses despite chemotherapy, the treatment options are limited and the prognosis is poor, with a five-year survival rate of approximately 2%, globally.
With the approval of Nivolumab, BMS is one step ahead of its concurrence. Merck’s pembrolizumab, Roche’s MPDL3280A and AstraZeneca MEDI4736 remain in clinical state. These checkpoint blockers promise to be a breakthrough in cancer treatment and all of them are potential blockbusters.