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Amgen and Merck to expand cancer collaboration

Firms to test Keytruda in combination for cancers inside the head and neck


Amgen and Merck have expanded their collaboration to evaluate the efficacy and safety of Amgen's talimogene laherparepvec in combination with Merck's Keytruda.

Amgen's investigational oncolytic immunotherapy will be tested with Keytruda (pembrolizumab) in a phase I, open label trial of patients with recurrent or metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN).

Sean Harper, executive VP of R&D at Amgen, commented: "We believe that talimogene laherparepvec has potential in several cancer types based on its proposed mechanism of action to initiate tumour antigen release and presentation, important steps in activating a systemic anti-tumour immune response.

"Talimogene laherparepvec and Keytruda are designed to result in anti-tumour immune responses through different and potentially complementary mechanisms of action. We hope these trials will provide us with insights on the combination of these therapies for patients with this form of cancer for whom treatment options are currently limited.”

Talimogene laherparepvec is designed to selectively replicate in tumours and initiate an immune response against cancer cells, while Keytruda is a humanised monoclonal antibody that blocks the interaction between PD-1 (programmed death receptor-1), PD-L1 and PD-L2.

Dr Erin Rubin, VP and therapeutic head of oncology early stage development at Merck, added: "Expanding our collaboration with Amgen is a testament to our belief in the potential for immuno-oncology therapies to change the way we approach the treatment of many cancers, including advanced head and neck cancer where the options are limited.”

SCCHN are cancers that begin in the squamous cells that line the mucosal surfaces inside the head and neck, including cancers of the nasal cavity, sinuses, lips, mouth, salivary glands, throat and larynx.

Article by
Kirstie Pickering

3rd June 2015

From: Research



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