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Since the Big Pharma's announcement on August 5th of this "shocking" or "stunning" outcome, as of this writing, BMS' share price has fallen about 25% (while MRK's has risen about 7%, with a roughly flat S&P 500), which would be equivalent to a loss in market capitalization of about $30 billion.
The "era" of course can be measured in a mere handful of years. It was not that long ago, in 2011, when anti-CTLA-4 drug ipilimumab (Yervoy, Bristol-Myers) was approved for metastatic or advanced melanoma, while "relative" tremelimumab (Pfizer, subsequently licensed to AstraZeneca and MedImmune) failed its own pivotal melanoma trials.
Bristol's failure was attributed by some (or many) to a failure in trial design, and its share price was treated like that of a small biotechnology company that failed its pivotal study. When has that happened? Was failure really attributable simply and strictly to trial design, or was there a calculated risk-reward calculation that merely did not pan out? Consider that Bristol-Myers was running two pivotal trials essentially for the same indication and patient population; one of nivo as a monotherapy, and one of nivo and ipi as a combination regimen.
Nivolumab's August failure may have the exposed anti-PD-1/PD-L1 therapy in at least two ways. First, anti-PD-1/PD-L1 drugs need help. And second, combinations (two therapies and/or treatments) and cocktails (three or more) "now" are the order of the day for end-stage cancer patients.
What started out a few years ago as throwing poop on a wall and observing what stuck in regards to exploring combinations and cocktails for end-stage patients appears to have evolved into or towards thinking more about the poop before it is thrown and wondering what each poop in the pairing or triplet brings to the table individually and collectively in regards to baseline immunologic signalling, biomarkers, pharmacokinetics, etc. -- that is, clear, definable, understandable, synergistic value. See, for example, Immunological “ignition switch” (August 26, 2016) on the blog's Current News page.
What happens to a Big Pharma owner of an anti-PD-1/PD-L1 drug or agent if it doesn't find the right (i.e., synergistic) partner for its checkpoint inhibitor, and when a/one competitor does?