Merck seeking new OK for cancer drug in tight race with rival, on track in latest makeover

MarketsAssociated Press

Drugmaker Merck & Co. is ratcheting up its race with rival Bristol-Myers Squibb for leadership in the hot new field of immuno-oncology. Merck says it will apply by midyear for approval of its melanoma drug, Keytruda, for fighting lung cancer.

Keytruda was the first medication to get U.S. approval among the multiple immuno-oncology drugs in development. It's a promising category that works by harnessing the body's immune system to uncloak and attack cancer cells that otherwise might go undetected.

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Merck's CEO is to discuss progress with Keytruda and the rest of Merck's pipeline at an industry conference Monday. Among other things, he'll announce that Merck has more than 10 drugs in late-stage patients testing and is on track with the cost-cutting and other changes in its latest restructuring.