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Merck in immuno-oncology collaboration with major cancer research centre

Published on 14/08/15 at 09:00am
Keytruda image

Merck is teaming up with the University of Texas to evaluate Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy, Keytruda, in combination with other treatments

A team at the MD Anderson Cancer Center will work with the pharma company on a strategic clinical research collaboration to study Keytruda (pembrolizumab) in combination with other cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy and/or novel anti-tumour medicines.

The agreement will see collaborative studies in gastroesophageal adenocarcinoma, pancreatic adenocarcinoma, and hepatocellular carcinoma, over a three-year period. The first studies are scheduled to start enrolling later this year.

The agreement aims to discover what combinations will work best with Keytruda in these types of tumours by exploring promising new alternatives. The studies will be conducted in parallel, in order to determine optimal regimens as efficiently as possible. According to Merck the studies will all feature state-of-the-art monitoring protocols and built-in flexibility to take advantage of the very latest information available.

Merck is currently working on several studies of Keytruda, involving more than 16,000 patients in over 100 clinical trials across more than 30 tumour types.

Keytruda is a humanised monoclonal antibody that blocks the interaction between PD-1 and its ligands, PD-L1 and PD-L2. This releases the PD-1 pathway-mediated inhibition of the immune response, including the anti-tumour immune response.

MD Anderson has led in researching breakthrough cancer therapies, and was a key contributor to early investigations exploring the use of Keytruda in the treatment of multiple tumour types. Past research collaborations between The University and Merck were pivotal in achieving the FDA approval of Keytruda as a treatment for unresectable or metastatic melanoma.

“Through these types of collaborations, we are able to engage in larger, more comprehensive studies that aim to accelerate the pace of discovery,” says Dr Patrick Hwu, head of cancer medicine at MD Anderson. “We believe that this new agreement will help to speed delivery of new cancer treatments that our patients expect and deserve.”

Dr Roger Dansey, senior vice president and therapeutic area head, oncology late-stage development at Merck Research Laboratories, says: “This agreement embodies Merck’s commitment to collaborating with leaders in the field to rapidly advance breakthrough science and further the goal of bringing new treatment approaches to patients. Agreements like this are an integral part of our strategy to evaluate Keytruda in multiple tumours and combinations.” 

Joel Levy

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