Merck & Co has unveiled data from an early-stage trial in which its immunotherapy cancer drug MK-3475 showed survival and tumour shrinkage benefits in patients with advanced melanoma.

Based on data from the Phase Ib trial, the drugmaker is estimating an overall survival rate of 81% at one year across all MK-3475 monotherapy doses evaluated.

In addition, 41% of patients responded to treatment, up from the 38% recorded at an earlier stage in the trial, while 88% (43/49) of those that responded showed no evidence of disease progression.

The firm did stress that median duration of response and median overall survival have yet to be reached for any of the doses being tested.

Nevertheless, Roger Perlmutter, president of Merck Research Laboratories, said the data "make us hopeful that this novel investigational therapy could potentially provide meaningful benefits to patients suffering from this malignant disease".

Meanwhile, Merck also announced that an intravenous form (IV) of its antifungal Noxafil (posaconazole) will be given a speedy review by US regulators.

In the US, an oral suspension of the drug is available for the prophylaxis of invasive Aspergillus and Candida infections in patients 13 years of age and older who are at high risk of developing these infections due to being severely immunocompromised, and new drug applications have also been filed for pill forms.

Noxafil IV has also been filed with regulators Europe, merck said.