The FDA is quickly giving this cancer drug approval for new uses

Bristol-Myers Squibb received two Food and Drug Administration approvals in two days, to expand the use of a new type of cancer treatment.

On Monday, the FDA approved Opdivo to treat a type of kidney cancer. The next day, the agency gave the nod for the same drug to be used to treat an advanced skin cancer.

That’s the sixth approval this year for Opdivo, an injection that helps the immune system fight cancer cells. This particular immuno-oncology drug is a programmed death receptor-1 (PD-1) blocking antibody. Immunotherapies works to attack cancer cells using the body’s own immune system, unlike chemotherapy and radiation that kills both cancerous and healthy cells.

According to Reuters, this class of drugs that work like Opdivo — to help the immune system by blocking a certain protein — will have annual sales of $20 billion by 2020.

The drug was originally approved in December to treat metastatic melanoma in patients that had already had treatment.

The drug is also approved to treat lung cancer and patients with advance melanoma that have received treatment. Sales of Opdivo had reached $467 million in the first nine months of the year, with most of that coming in the three months through Sept. 30.

Bristol-Myers Squibb is still in clinical trials to see if there are more tumour types that Opdivo can treat.

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