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Lung cancer doctors eye Merck's Keytruda over Bristol's Opdivo

Aug 25 (Reuters) - Recent clinical trial results are likely to lead doctors to treat more patients who have a common form of lung cancer with a Merck drug at the expense of a Bristol-Myers Squibb medication at least until more data emerges, oncologists and analysts say.

The yet-to-be-published studies involve drugs in a new class designed to enable the body's immune system to fight cancer.

A recent trial of Merck's Keytruda showed that it worked better than chemotherapy as an initial treatment for advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in patients with high levels of a protein called PDL1, believed to help identify those most likely to benefit from this type of immunotherapy.

A separate trial of Bristol-Myers' Opdivo, which included patients with much lower levels of the protein biomarker, did not show an advantage over chemotherapy.

"It seems likely that PDL1, if these results hold, will be added to the list of markers that someone needs prior to starting treatment," said Dr Edward Garon, a lung cancer specialist at the University of California Los Angeles' Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.

He said patients shown to have high levels of PDL1 will be started on the Merck drug, while...


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