A new class of medicines that help the body’s own immune cells fight tumors could target a wide set of cancers, opening a $35 billion market for Merck & Co., Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., AstraZeneca Plc and Roche Holding AG.
Nathan Schwegman was just 25 when his doctor told him he had a 3 percent chance of surviving the melanoma that had spread into his lungs and spine, soon leaving him in so much pain he could hardly move.
In 1996, James Allison , a California researcher, uncovered a way in mice to unleash the body’s disease-fighting immune system against cancer. While he was certain the approach could lead to a new kind of treatment against human tumors, he was unable at first to convince drug companies to pursue the idea.
Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. won U.S. approval for ipilimumab, the first drug proven to extend the lives of patients with advanced melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. The shares rose the most in nine months.