Bristol-Myers Squibb’s PD-1 inhibitor Opdivo is in the spotlight again after smashing survival targets in a group of patients with non-small cell lung cancer, which could broaden its scope substantially.

The Phase III study Checkmate-057 was stopped early after an independent data monitoring committee concluded that the drug demonstrated superior overall survival in patients with advanced non-squamous NSCLC, the most common form of the disease.

The results mark the second time Opdivo (nivolumab) has demonstrated a survival advantage in lung cancer, noted Michael Giordano, Head of Development, Oncology, at B-MS. US regulators issued a green light for its use to treat advanced squamous forms of NSCLC last month just one week after receiving the application, and it is also approved to treat advanced melanoma. 

Despite the drug’s close rivalry with Merck & Co’s PD-1 inhibitor Keytruda (pembrolizumab), analysts are reportedly expecting peak sales for the drug of $7 billion by 2020, highlighting the potential of this class of medicines.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths globally, resulting in more than 1.5 million deaths each year according the World Health Organisation. NSCLC is one of the most common types of the disease and accounts for approximately 85% of cases.