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Eli Lilly Inks Oncology Deals with Merck, Bristol-Myers

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Eli Lilly and Company (LLY - Free Report) has entered into separate agreements with Merck (MRK - Free Report) and Bristol-Myers Squibb Company (BMY - Free Report) to evaluate its drugs for several oncology indications.

Eli Lilly and Bristol-Myers Deal

Eli Lilly and Bristol-Myers have collaborated to evaluate the safety, tolerability and preliminary efficacy of Eli Lilly’s galunisertib in combination with Bristol-Myers’ human programmed death receptor-1 (PD-1) blocking antibody, Opdivo. Eli Lilly plans to conduct a phase I/II study, which will evaluate the combination for the treatment of patients suffering from advanced glioblastoma, hepatocellular carcinoma and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Oral galunisertib is currently being evaluated in phase II studies for hepatocellular carcinoma, myelodysplastic syndromes, glioblastoma and pancreatic cancer. Opdivo injection received accelerated approval in the U.S. for intravenous use in patients suffering from unresectable or metastatic melanoma and disease progression following treatment with Yervoy and in patients who are BRAF V600 mutation positive following treatment with a BRAF inhibitor.

We note that this is Bristol-Myers’ second Opdivo related deal this week. Bristol-Myers and Seattle Genetics, Inc. (SGEN - Free Report) recently entered into an agreement to develop an investigational combination of the latter’s antibody-drug conjugate, Adcetris and Opdivo (read more: Seattle Genetics, Bristol-Myers to Study Adcetris-Opdivo).

Eli Lilly and Merck Deal

Eli Lilly and Merck have collaborated to evaluate the safety, tolerability and efficacy of Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy, Keytruda, in combination with several candidates at Eli Lilly. Merck is enrolling patients in a phase II study evaluating the combination of Keytruda with Alimta in first-line non-squamous NSCLC. Eli Lilly will conduct two phase I/II studies – Cyramza with Keytruda (multiple tumors) and necitumumab with Keytruda (NSCLC). Both the studies are expected to start in 2015.

We note that Keytruda was the first anti-PD-1 therapy to gain approval in the U.S. last year for advanced melanoma.

Eli Lilly currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). A better-ranked stock in the health care sector is Allergan (AGN - Free Report) carrying a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

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