Merck’s Cancer Fix Goes Mainstream
- Lung Cancer is the 2nd most commonly diagnosed cancer among black people
- Merck’s Keytruda made $3.8 billion in revenue in 2017
A new kind of ‘immunotherapy’ cancer treatment could become part of the standard medication process. Merck’s (MRK +2.41%) latest finding has the ability to massively affect hundreds of thousands of people with lung cancer. How can this new medical process possibly extend the lives of black cancer patients?
Why This Matters: The second most commonly diagnosed cancers among black men and women is lung cancer. Merck's immunotherapy drug Keytruda along with chemotherapy has cut the risk of death in people with lung cancer by half, according to data presented at the American Association of Cancer Research's annual meeting.
Lung cancer accounts for the largest number of cancer deaths among black men at 27% and black women at 22%. This makes lung cancer the leading cause of cancer death in African Americans. Not to mention, black people have the highest death rate and shortest survival of any racial and ethnic group in the U.S. for most cancers, according to the American Cancer Society.
The new combination Merck has presented of Keytruda and chemotherapy has the ability to lower these statistics. Unlike chemotherapy, which involves administering powerful drugs that kill both cancerous and healthy cells, immunotherapies are designed to help the immune system identify and knock out just the cancerous cells.
Situational Awareness: Shares of Merck are up 4.5% year to date but competition in the immunotherapy space is fierce. Merck’s Keytruda made $3.8 billion in revenue in 2017. However, it’s biggest rival in the space Bristol-Myers Squibb’s (BMY -0.53%) immunotherapy drugs Opdivo made $4.9 billion and Yervoy brought in $1.2 billion last year.
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