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Bristol-Myers Squibb Company (BMY - Analyst Report) recently announced encouraging data on its oncology candidate nivolumab from a phase I dose-ranging trial (study 004: n=86). The study evaluated the safety and anti-tumor activity of nivolumab in combination with Bristol-Myers’ marketed skin-cancer drug Yervoy (combined either concurrently or sequentially) for treating patients suffering from advanced melanoma. The data was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Data from the study revealed that 53% (9 out of 17) patients treated with the combination of nivolumab and Yervoy (concurrently) had confirmed objective responses. The patients were treated with the same combination dosage as is being used in the ongoing phase III study. The phase III study is also evaluating the combination of nivolumab and Yervoy in advanced melanoma patients.

Data from the phase I study also revealed at least an 80% tumor shrinkage in each of the above nine patients within twelve weeks. Furthermore, an estimated survival rate (52-week) of 82% was observed across all concurrent groups. Bristol-Myers presented the estimated survival data at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

We believe that the encouraging data on nivolumab is good news for Bristol-Myers as its pipeline must deliver to combat the loss of revenues due to the genericization of Plavix. Plavix, co-developed with Sanofi (SNY - Analyst Report), went off patent in the US in May 2012. Moreover, the threat of genericization looms over many other key drugs at Bristol-Myers.

Bristol-Myers, a biopharmaceutical company, carries a Zacks Rank # 3 (Hold). Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (ALXN - Analyst Report) and Cubist Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (CBST - Analyst Report) appear to be more attractive in the biopharma space with a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) each.

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