Shares of Bristol-Myers Fall to 2-Year Low After Cancer Drug Trial Fails to Reach Endpoint

Shares of Bristol-Myers Squibb Co fell to its lowest mark in roughly two years on the heels of its immune-based therapy Opdivo failing to surpass expectations in a recent study. This of course, has introduced questions over whether or not the drug will help newly-diagnosed lung cancer patients.

More specifically, Bristol-Myers shares fell about 9.4 percent, on Monday, which was below expectations. Shares reached $50.43 by 10:18 am, Monday morning. The trial was imbalanced, cites Nick Botwood, noting that more women and more patients with high PD-L1 levels who had received chemotherapy might have skewed the trial’s results.

Botwood comments, “The study was designed to ask a very specific question at the 5 percent expression. It wasn’t designed to ask a question at 50 percent,” referring specifically to a measure of how prominent these PD-L1 biomarkers are in each patient’s cancer; with 50 percent considered to be a high level.

It is important for Bristol-Myers to straighten this out as they have been in direct competition with Merck as the first and leader in the emerging field of immune-oncology; these are medicines designed, of course, to boost the body’s natural cancer defenses. Both drug companies have designed medicines that have already found approval to treat patients whose lung cancer worsened after receiving some initial form of treatment.

Merck’s Opdivo-comparable drug, of course, is Keytruda; and analysts note that it already appears to offer the broadest offering as a treatment for lung cancer. That, of course, could be a huge momentum builder for Merck.
But while these results are, unfortunately, a setback, Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Sam Fazeli comments, that Bristol-Myers should not be written off just yet.

“No one believes that Opdivo is dead in first-line,” Fazeli said in an e-mail. “It’s a drug that has worked in many settings. It’s just that the trial had so many aspects that apparently worked against it.”
Shares of Bristol-Myers have already fallen nearly 20 percent this year, through Friday, so the company is really pushing for another big hit.

Still, with all this in mind, Goldman continues to give Bristol-Myers a Buy rating with a $75 price target on its stock.