(Reuters) – Merck & Co said on Monday a late-stage trial testing its blockbuster cancer drug, Keytruda, met the main goal of helping previously untreated lung cancer patients live longer, sending its shares up 3 percent in premarket trade.
An independent data monitoring committee determined the trial, which tested Keytruda as a monotherapy to treat non-small cell lung cancer, extended the lives of patients significantly compared to those being treated by chemotherapy.
Based on the recommendation, the trial will continue to evaluate a secondary goal of testing whether the treatment can delay the disease from progressing.
Keytruda is already approved to treat several forms of cancer, including advanced melanoma. The drug racked up $3.81 billion in revenue in 2017.
Lung cancer is the second most common cancer and is expected to kill over 154,000 people this year, the American Cancer Society says.
An approval to treat patients who have not received any prior treatments will make the drug available to a large number of people and open up a key market for Merck, which is already considered the frontrunner in the space.
Shares of Merck were up at $54.97 in premarket trading.
Reporting by Tamara Mathias in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila, Bernard Orr