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Merck and Advaxis to study anti-PD1 combo

Collaboration to investigate pembrolizumab and ADXS-PSA in prostate cancer

Merck and Co - US headquartersAdvaxis has become the latest biotech to become involved in the heated anti-PD1 cancer immunotherapy race after forming a research pact with Merck & Co.

The collaboration will see the companies investigate a combination of Merck's impressive anti-PD1 antibody pembrolizumab with Advaxis' own immunotherapy ADXS-PSA in patients with advanced prostate cancer.

Specifically Advaxis says the partnership will study ADXS-PSA both as monotherapy and in combination with pembrolizumab in a phase I/II study of patients with previously treated metastatic, castration-resistant prostate cancer.

The announcement is the latest development for Merck's pembrolizumab, which is touted as a major step in oncology treatment and is on course to be the first anti-PD1 drug available in Europe after regulators accepted the drug for review in July this year.

The drug is part of a rising class of cancer treatment called anti-PD1 immunotherapies, which encourage the body's immune system to fight the disease.

Other advanced anti-PD1 drugs include Bristol-Myers Squibb and Ono's nivolumab, which became the first drug in this class to hit the market after winning approval in Japan last month.

BMS is also investigating the potential for nivolumab as part of a combination treatment and last week announced a partnership with Celgene to study the drug alongside Abraxane (paclitaxel) in people with advanced breast cancer.

AstraZeneca (AZ) and Merck Serono both also have promising anti-PD1 candidates and AZ's head of oncology research Susan Galbraith has touted the value of drug combinations in an interview with PMLiVE.

The same also seems to apply for Merck. Regarding the deal with Advaxis, Merck's VP, oncology Dr Eric Rubin said: “Collaborations such as this are an integral part of Merck's strategy to evaluate the potential of pembrolizumab in multiple combinations for a broad range of cancers.”

The terms of the deal mean Advaxis will sponsor and fund the study and Merck will provide pembrolizumab. The phase I part of the trial, which is planned for early 2015, is designed to establish a recommended dose regimen for ADXS-PSA alone and combined with pembrolizumab. The phase II section will assess the safety and efficacy of the combination.

Article by
Thomas Meek

26th August 2014

From: Research

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