Back to top

Image: Bigstock

Merck (MRK) Keytruda Betters Survival in Adjuvant Lung Cancer

Read MoreHide Full Article

Merck (MRK - Free Report) announced that its blockbuster anti-PD-1 therapy, Keytruda reduced the risk of disease recurrence or death after surgery in a phase III study evaluating it for treating patients with adjuvant stage IB-IIIA non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), regardless of PD-L1 expression.

The study, KEYNOTE-091, also known as EORTC-1416-LCG/ETOP-8-15 – PEARLS, met one of its dual primary endpoints of disease-free survival (DFS). Interim data from the study showed that treatment with Keytruda led to a statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvement in DFS compared with placebo in the all-comer population of patients with stage IB-IIIA NSCLC. At the interim analysis, conducted by an independent Data Monitoring Committee, an improvement in DFS was also observed in patients whose tumors express PD-L1 (tumor proportion score [TPS] ≥50%) who were treated with Keytruda versus placebo. The study will continue to evaluate DFS in patients whose tumors express high levels of PD-L1 (TPS ≥50%) as well as the other primary endpoint of overall survival.

Merck’s stock has risen 5.2% in the past year compared with an increase of 20.8% for the industry.

Zacks Investment Research

Image Source: Zacks Investment Research

Keytruda is already approved for several settings in the metastatic NSCLC indication. In fact, Keytruda sales have been gaining particularly from continued strong momentum in lung cancer indications and continued uptake in newer indications.

The drug generated sales of $12.6 billion in the nine months of 2021, up 19% (excluding Fx impact) year over year.

Keytruda is continuously growing and expanding into new indications and markets globally. The Keytruda development program is also progressing well and the drug is being studied for more than 30 types of cancer in more than 1600 studies, including nearly 1200 combination studies.

Undoubtedly, Keytruda has strong growth prospects based on increased utilization, approval for new indications,and the expectation of additional approvals worldwide. Though Keytruda may be Merck’s biggest strength and a solid reason to own the stock, it can also be argued that the company is excessively dependent on the drug and should look for ways to diversify its product lineup. 

Merck currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Stocks to Consider

Some better-ranked large stocks are Pfizer (PFE - Free Report) , BioNTech (BNTX - Free Report) and AbbVie (ABBV - Free Report) . While Pfizer and BioNTech have a Zacks Rank of 1 (Strong Buy), AbbVie has a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

Pfizer’s stock has risen 54.7% in the past year. Estimates for Pfizer’s 2022 earnings have gone up from $3.94 to $5.70 over the past 60 days.

Pfizer’s earnings performance has been mixed, with the company exceeding earnings expectations in three of the last four quarters while missing in one. PFE has a four-quarter earnings surprise of 10.85%, on average.

BioNTech’s stock has surged 111.2% in the past year. Estimates for BioNTech’s 2022 earnings have gone up from $32.38 to $32.52 over the past 60 days.

BioNTech topped earnings estimates in each of the last four quarters. BioNTech has a four-quarter earnings surprise of 132.44%, on average.

AbbVie’s stock has risen 31.2% in the past year. Estimates for AbbVie’s 2022 earnings have gone up from $13.99 to $14.09 over the past 60 days.

AbbVie’s earnings performance has been strong with the company exceeding earnings expectations in each of the last four quarters. AbbVie has a four-quarter earnings surprise of 3.02%, on average.


In-Depth Zacks Research for the Tickers Above


Normally $25 each - click below to receive one report FREE:


Pfizer Inc. (PFE) - free report >>

Merck & Co., Inc. (MRK) - free report >>

AbbVie Inc. (ABBV) - free report >>

BioNTech SE Sponsored ADR (BNTX) - free report >>