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Eisai and MSD team up to combine Lenvima and Keytruda in cancer

Published on 08/03/18 at 10:04am

Pharma heavyweights MSD (Merck) and Eisai have announced they are to join forces to develop and commercialise the latter’s tyrosine kinase inhibitor Lenvima (lenvatinib mesylate), both as a monotherapy and in combination with MSD’s blockbuster immunotherapy Keytruda (pembrolizumab) in the treatment of a range of cancers. Subject to sales, the alliance could be worth as much as $5.76 billion for the Japanese firm.

The combination of the two therapies already received breakthrough designation from the FDA after it demonstrated tumour shrinkage of 63% in kidney cancer patients.

“Aiming to maximise the potential of Lenvima and expedite the creation of innovative treatments in this age of ‘cancer evolution’, we have entered into this collaboration with Merck who developed the anti-PD-1 antibody Keytruda,” commented Haruo Naito, Representative Corporate Officer and CEO of Eisai. “By providing new treatment options including for refractory cancers with no hopes for a cure to date, we are striving to further contribute to increasing the benefits provided to patients and their families.”

The terms of the partnership dictate that Eisai will provide an upfront payment of $300 million, a payment of $450 million in reimbursement for research and development costs, and up to $850 million for certain options rights through to the end of the company’s financial year in March 2021; the Japanese drugmaker said it forecasts that Lenvima could bring in annual sales of more than $1 billion by this time.

As part of the deal, Eisai will also be eligible to receive up to $385 million in milestone payments.

The two companies will share gross profits equally, with MSD entitled to half of all global Lenvima sales, even in indications where it has already been approved.

 “Together with Eisai, we aim to maximize the value of Lenvima for its current indications while jointly pursuing additional approvals in combination with Keytruda across a wide range of cancers,” added Dr Roger M Perlmutter, President of Merck Research Laboratories. “There is strong scientific evidence supporting synergistic effects of Keytruda when used in combination with Lenvima, and the companies have already received Breakthrough Therapy Designation from the US FDA for the Keytruda/Lenvima combination in renal cell carcinoma. Through this collaboration, we will both broaden our oncology portfolio and have the opportunity to help even more cancer patients around the world.”

Matt Fellows

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