What to Expect From Merck at ASCO

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The premier event for biotech and pharma companies in 2017 is just around the corner. The 2017 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) is set to run from June 2 to June 6 in Chicago. Historically, this conference has been known to make or break companies, with winners walking away with a nice gain and losers trying to pick up the pieces.

The abstracts for ASCO have already been released, and there already have been some moves in anticipation.

Here, 24/7 Wall St. is specifically taking a look at Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE: MRK) and what Credit Suisse sees happening for this pharma giant at ASCO.

Credit Suisse has an Outperform rating with a $72 price target, implying an upside of over 12% from the current price level.

The brokerage firm commented in its report:

For Merck, focus on executing on I-O/chemo, while progress with Keytruda+IDO also encouraging. The various datasets for Keytruda in combination with Incyte’s epacodastat will generate a lot of interest from an Incyte perspective. From a Merck perspective the news is obviously less impactful but we think it is still encouraging that the combination is progressing as it leaves Merck in a potential leadership position with the PD- 1/PD-L1 plus IDO combination should it end up making it to the market in various indications.

Merck’s Abstract 9094 includes additional data from the KEYNOTE-021 Cohort G that recently obtained accelerated approval by the FDA for the treatment of first-line nonsquamous, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Credit Suisse believes that the data in the abstract looks fairly comparable to what the firm saw at ESMO last year and what is now in the product’s approved prescribing information.

Credit Suisse ended its report saying:

We remain optimistic on Merck’s ability to roll out the combination commercially in the coming weeks and months and establish a strong foothold in the 1L NSCLC market ahead of the entry of potential competitors. Outside of lung cancer, we are especially impressed by the efficacy seen with Keytruda in combination with standard neoadjuvant therapy in high-risk breast cancer, most notably in triple negative breast cancer (abstract 506). The efficacy follow up from the Phase 2 KEYNOTE-052 trial in 1st line bladder cancer (abstract 4502) is slightly improved from what we saw back at ESMO, providing reassurance ahead of ASCO as well as the June 14th PDUFA date for the drug in both 1st line and 2nd line bladder cancer.

Shares of Merck traded up fractionally at $64.36 Tuesday morning, with a consensus analyst price target of $69.30 and a 52-week trading range of $55.10 to $66.80.