Novartis immuno-oncology drug candidate fails skin cancer trial

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The drug did not improve progression-free survival in previously untreated patients with BRAF V600 mutation-positive cutaneous melanoma, compared to Tafinlar + Mekinist alone, Novartis said.

Despite the failure, Novartis is continuing development of spartalizumab, a so-called checkpoint inhibitor thought to help take the brakes off the immune system in fighting cancer, against other kind of tumors, the Basel-based company said.

Novartis has been late in developing such immuno-oncology drugs for its portfolio, a field now dominated by lucrative medicines including Merck’s Keytruda, Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY)’s Opdivo, and to a lesser extent, Roche’s Tecentriq.