Shares of Incyte (INCY) are up 7.1% as of 12:30 p.m. New York time on data released before the June meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology showing that Incyte’s epacadostat, which is an IDO inhibitor, has proved effective when used in combination with Merck’s (MRK) Keytruda and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s (BMY) Opdivo. Keytruda and Opdivo are PD-1 inhibitors which work to block the interaction between a PD-1 protein on an immune system cell and a PD-L1 protein hiding a cancer cell so that the body’s immune system can recognize and attack the cancer cell. Incyte’s epacadostat, an IDO inhibitor, works to block the interaction between the IDO enzyme and the immune system and again helps the immune system identify cancer cells. In theory coupling immuno-oncology drugs with different targets has been seen as an especially potent weapon for attacking cancers. But these are among the first trials to prove the concept using an IDO inhibitor. In these trials, Merck’s Keytruda and Incyte’s epacadostat achieved an overall response rate of 35% in all patients regardless their specific biomarkers. In patients who carry a lot of the PD-L1 protein market, the combination saw an overall response rate of 43%. The Opdivo/epacadostat trials addressed four cancers (head and neck, melanoma, ovarian, colorectal.)
The annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology will be held in Chicago on June 2-6.
Incyte is a member of my Jubak Picks portfolio. The shares are up 189% since I added them to this portfolio on April 17, 2014.
Full disclosure: I own call options on Incyte in my personal portfolio.