A new experimental drug by Bristol-Myers Squibb is showing promise for patients with advanced melanoma, kidney and lung cancers, according to preliminary trial data.
The drug, known now as BMS-936558, is an anti-PD-1 treatment that works by boosting the immune system. Early data shows the drug was relatively safe and effectively shrank tumors in three of the five cancers in which it was tested.
Significant tumor shrinkage was noted in 18 percent of the 76 lung cancer patients, 28 percent of the 94 melanoma patients, and 27 percent of the 33 kidney cancer patients in which it was tested. Cancer experts say the results are promising and offer hope for more effective treatments for a variety of cancers.
Yervoy (ipillimumab), also made by Bristol-Myers, was the first PD-1 drug to hit the market. It recently won approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of advanced melanoma. Though data on BMS-936558 is preliminary, researchers say it appears less toxic and has a higher response rate than Yervoy.
Serious side effects and deaths were reported among patients who used the drug, however. Three patients died from a lung swelling condition known as pneumonitis. Two of the patients who died had lung cancer, and the third had colon cancer. Otherwise, researchers say the side effects were relatively minor.