MEDICAL RESEARCH

Bristol-Myers to test Opdivo with Nektar drug for several cancers

A trader passes by a screen displaying the tickers symbols for Bristol-Myers Squibb and Intelsat, Ltd. on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange

A trader passes by a screen displaying the tickers symbols for Bristol-Myers Squibb and Intelsat, Ltd. on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange  (Copyright Reuters 2016)

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co said on Tuesday it would evaluate the use of its blockbuster cancer immunotherapy Opdivo in combination with an experimental drug from Nektar Therapeutics to treat multiple cancers.

Opdivo, which competes with Merck & Co's Keytruda, belongs to a costly new class of medicines called PD-1 checkpoint inhibitors that work by taking the brakes off the immune system.

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The collaboration involves Nektar's NKTR-214, an experimental immuno-stimulatory therapy designed to increase the expression of PD-1 on immune cells.

The trials will evaluate the potential for the combination to improve on the current standard-of-care to treat melanoma and cancers of the kidney, colorectal system, bladder and the most common form of lung cancer.

Opdivo is already approved to treat advanced melanoma and lung cancer, and is being studied for other cancers.