BMS’ melanoma drug given priority review

pharmafile | August 19, 2010 | News story | Sales and Marketing BMS, ipilimumab 

Bristol-Myers Squibb’s promising new treatment for skin cancer melanoma has been given a priority review by the FDA.

The company says ipilimumab has been accepted for filing and review in adult patients with advanced melanoma who have been previously treated with other drugs.

The priority review status means the FDA is expected to give its ruling before the end of 2010.

Analysts say the drug could reach peak annual sales of $1-1.5 billion, thanks to it targeting a cancer which has currently few treatment options.

The filing is based on data from the primary analysis of the pivotal MDX010-020 trial, which showed the drug extended average survival from 6.4 months to 10.1 months.

However, studies have also shown that ipilimumab can cause immune-related side effects, including severe and life-threatening adverse events affecting the gastrointestinal, skin, liver or endocrine systems.

The drug is currently being reviewed by the European Medicines Agency and other health authorities for the treatment of adult patients with previously treated advanced melanoma.

Ipilimumab is a novel T-cell potentiator that specifically blocks the inhibitory signal of CTLA-4 (cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen 4), a molecule on T-cells that plays a critical role in regulating natural immune responses. Suppression of CTLA-4 can augment the immune system’s T-cell response.

Melanoma is characterised by the uncontrolled growth of pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) located in the skin. As with many cancers, it is more difficult to treat once the disease has spread beyond the skin to other parts of the body by way of the bloodstream or the lymphatic system (metastatic disease).

The incidence of melanoma has increased ten-fold over the past 50 years, and has steadily increased since the 1970s.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that there were approximately 68,000 new cases of melanoma in the US in 2009. Melanoma accounts for about three percent of skin cancer cases, but it causes most skin cancer deaths. The ACS estimates that, in 2009, there were approximately 8,700 deaths from melanoma in the US

Ipilimumab is BMS’ second drug under priority review by the FDA this year, following Sprycel’s submission for newly diagnosed CML in July.

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