Bristol-Myers Squibb is collaborating with Roche to evaluate its recently-approved metastatic melanoma drug Yervoy in combination with vemurafenib, the Swiss major's investigational skin cancer drug.

The two firms will conduct a Phase I/II study to evaluate the the combination of Yervoy (ipilimumab) with vemurafenib, a BRAF inhibitor. The study will focus on patients with BRAF-mutated metastatic melanoma and the cross-company collaboration may continue "if appropriate".

Yervoy was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration at the end of March, the first advanced melanoma drug to get the green light in 13 years.  The European Medicines Agency’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use recommended approval for the drug last month and analysts believe it is destined to become a blockbuster.

Vemurafenib is being co-developed by Roche and Daiichi Sankyo unit Plexxikon, and new drug applications were recently submitted in Europe and the USA. Hal Barron Roche's chief medical officer, said "we are entering a new era for melanoma, and are committed to studying exciting combinations with investigational medicines in our own pipeline".

The Basel-headquartered group is also conducting a trial studying the combination of vemurafenib with another of its own drug, the MEK inhibitor GDC-0973, in patients who previously received the former alone.