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Last $60.24 USD
Change Today -0.51 / -0.84%
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merck & co. inc. (MRK) Key Developments

US FDA Accepts for Review the Supplemental Biologics License Application for Merck's Anti-PD-1 Therapy

Merck announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has accepted for review the supplemental Biologics License Application (sBLA) for Merck's anti-PD-1 therapy, KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab), for the treatment of patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose disease has progressed on or after platinum-containing chemotherapy and an FDA-approved therapy for EGFR or ALK genomic tumor aberrations, if present. The FDA granted Priority Review with a PDUFA, or target action, date of October 2, 2015; the sBLA will be reviewed under the FDA’s Accelerated Approval program. The sBLA submission was based in part on data from KEYNOTE-001 – including patients with greater than or equal to 50% of tumor cells positive for PD-L1 expression – which were presented at the 2015 American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting (link). These data also served as the basis for the FDA Breakthrough Therapy designation for KEYTRUDA in advanced NSCLC. Merck has filed for approval of KEYTRUDA monotherapy at a dose of 2 mg/kg every three weeks, which is the currently approved dose for advanced melanoma. KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) is a humanized monoclonal antibody that blocks the interaction between PD-1 and its ligands, PD-L1 and PD-L2. By binding to the PD-1 receptor and blocking the interaction with the receptor ligands, KEYTRUDA releases the PD-1 pathway-mediated inhibition of the immune response, including the anti-tumor immune response. KEYTRUDA is indicated in the United States at a dose of 2 mg/kg administered as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every three weeks for the treatment of patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma and disease progression following ipilimumab and, if BRAF V600 mutation positive, a BRAF inhibitor. This indication is approved under accelerated approval based on tumor response rate and durability of response. An improvement in survival or disease-related symptoms has not yet been established. Continued approval for this indication may be contingent upon verification and description of clinical benefit in the confirmatory trials. Pneumonitis occurred in 12 (2.9%) of 411 patients with advanced melanoma receiving KEYTRUDA (the approved indication in the United States), including Grade 2 or 3 cases in 8 (1.9%) and 1 (0.2%) patients, respectively. Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of pneumonitis. Evaluate suspected pneumonitis with radiographic imaging. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater pneumonitis. Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 2; permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 3 or 4 pneumonitis. Colitis (including microscopic colitis) occurred in 4 (1%) of 411 patients, including Grade 2 or 3 cases in 1 (0.2%) and 2 (0.5%) patients respectively, receiving KEYTRUDA. Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of colitis. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater colitis. Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 2 or 3; permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 4 colitis. Hepatitis (including autoimmune hepatitis) occurred in 2 (0.5%) of 411 patients, including a Grade 4 case in 1 (0.2%) patient, receiving KEYTRUDA. Monitor patients for changes in liver function. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater hepatitis and, based on severity of liver enzyme elevations, withhold or discontinue KEYTRUDA. Hypophysitis occurred in 2 (0.5%) of 411 patients, including a Grade 2 case in 1 and a Grade 4 case in 1 (0.2% each) patient, receiving KEYTRUDA. Monitor for signs and symptoms of hypophysitis. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater hypophysitis. Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 2; withhold or discontinue for Grade 3; and permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 4 hypophysitis. Nephritis occurred in 3 (0.7%) patients receiving KEYTRUDA, consisting of one case of Grade 2 autoimmune nephritis (0.2%) and two cases of interstitial nephritis with renal failure (0.5%), one Grade 3 and one Grade 4. Monitor patients for changes in renal function. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater nephritis. Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 2; permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 3 or 4 nephritis.

Amgen and Merck Announce Expansion of Collaboration to Support Studies of Talimogene Laherparepvec in Combination with KEYTRUDA (Pembrolizumab) in Patients with Head and Neck Cancer

Amgen and Merck announced an expanded collaboration to evaluate the efficacy and safety of talimogene laherparepvec, Amgen's investigational oncolytic immunotherapy, in combination with KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab), Merck's anti-PD-1 therapy, in a Phase 1, open-label trial of patients with recurrent or metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN). In addition, the companies announced that a global, randomized Phase 3 trial evaluating the combination in patients with regionally or distantly metastatic melanoma is being initiated. As previously announced, the compounds are being studied in a Phase 1, open-label trial in this patient population. Both immunotherapies are designed to modulate the immune system. Talimogene laherparepvec is an investigational oncolytic immunotherapy designed to selectively replicate in tumors (but not normal tissue) and to initiate an immune response against cancer cells. KEYTRUDA is a humanized monoclonal antibody that blocks the interaction between PD-1 (programmed death receptor-1) and its ligands, PD-L1 and PD-L2. Amgen has initiated a comprehensive clinical development program for talimogene laherparepvec in metastatic melanoma, which includes combination studies with checkpoint inhibitors in patients with late-stage disease and monotherapy prior to surgery (neoadjuvant) in patients with resectable disease. Additionally, based on its clinical profile, talimogene laherparepvec has the potential to be studied in a variety of solid tumor types. About KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) is a humanized monoclonal antibody that blocks the interaction between PD-1 and its ligands, PD-L1 and PD-L2. By binding to the PD-1 receptor and blocking the interaction with the receptor ligands, KEYTRUDA releases the PD-1 pathway-mediated inhibition of the immune response, including the anti-tumor immune response. KEYTRUDA is indicated in the United States at a dose of 2 mg/kg administered as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every three weeks for the treatment of patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma and disease progression following ipilimumab and, if BRAF V600 mutation positive, a BRAF inhibitor. This indication is approved under accelerated approval based on tumor response rate and durability of response. An improvement in survival or disease-related symptoms has not yet been established. Continued approval for this indication may be contingent upon verification and description of clinical benefit in the confirmatory trials.

Merck and Dynavax Announce New Collaboration Investigating the Combination of Immuno-Oncology Therapies

Merck and Dynavax Technologies Corporation announced they have entered into two clinical trial collaboration agreements to investigate the potential synergistic effect of combining immunotherapies from both companies’ pipelines: Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy, KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab), and its investigational anti-interleukin-10 (anti-IL-10) immunomodulator, MK-1966, with Dynavax’s investigational toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9) agonist, SD-101. SD-101, KEYTRUDA, and MK-1966 are immunotherapies designed to enhance the body’s own defenses in fighting cancer. SD-101 is designed to mediate anti-tumor effects by triggering both innate and adaptive immune responses, including the induction of high levels of Type 1 interferon to stimulate recruitment of T-cells. KEYTRUDA is a humanized monoclonal antibody that blocks the interaction between PD-1 (programmed death receptor-1) and its ligands, PD-L1 and PD-L2. MK-1966 is an investigational anti-IL-10 immunomodulator designed to neutralize the immune-suppressive environment for tumors. The collaboration includes multiple studies that will evaluate: Safety and efficacy of combining SD-101 with KEYTRUDAin patients with advanced melanoma; this Phase 1b/2, multicenter, open-label study is expected to be initiated in the second half of 2015. Safety and efficacy of combining SD-101 with MK-1966 in patients with solid or hematological malignancies; this Phase 1 study is expected to be initiated in the second half of 2015. Under the terms of the agreement, Dynavax will sponsor and fund the SD-101 and KEYTRUDA study. Merck will sponsor and fund the SD-101 and MK-1966 study. The agreements include provisions where the parties may agree to extend either collaboration to include a Phase 3 clinical trial. Additional details of the agreements between Dynavax and Merck, through a subsidiary, were not disclosed.

Merck Provides the Update on KEYTRUDA

Merck announced the presentation of findings investigating the use of KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab), the company’s anti-PD-1 therapy, in multiple, difficult-to-treat cancers, including advanced small cell lung cancer (SCLC), esophageal cancer and ovarian cancer from the KEYNOTE-028 Phase 1b study. As of ASCO, data presented has demonstrated anti-tumor activity with KEYTRUDA in 13 different tumor types. Registrational trials are planned or ongoing in eight different tumor types, as monotherapy and in combination with other therapies. KEYTRUDA was the first anti-PD-1 therapy approved in the United States and is currently indicated at a dose of 2 mg/kg administered every three weeks for the treatment of patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma and disease progression following ipilimumab and, if BRAF V600 mutation positive, a BRAF inhibitor. Please see below for complete indication and selected safety information for KEYTRUDA. KEYNOTE-028 is an ongoing multi-cohort, non-randomized Phase 1b basket trial evaluating the safety, tolerability, and anti-tumor activity of KEYTRUDA monotherapy (10 mg/kg dosed every two weeks) in more than 450 patients across 20 different types of cancer. The study evaluated patients with PD-L1 positive advanced solid tumors that have not responded to current therapy or for which current therapy is not appropriate. Early Findings from Advanced Small Cell Lung Cancer Cohort (Abstract #7502): These early findings from 20 heavily pre-treated patients with advanced SCLC, presented on, May 30 by Dr. Patrick Ott, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, demonstrated an overall response rate (ORR) (confirmed and unconfirmed) of 35% (n=7/20) (95% CI, 15-59) (per RECIST v1.1). At the time of the analysis, six of seven responses were ongoing. The median follow-up duration for evaluable patients was 21 weeks (range, 2-48). Adverse events were consistent with previously reported safety data for KEYTRUDA. Treatment-related adverse events (occurring in two or more patients) were observed in 14 patients. Grade 3-4 investigator-assessed, treatment-related adverse events were asthenia (n=1) and blood bilirubin increased (n=1). Some patients experienced adverse events of special interest, including autoimmune thyroiditis (n=1, Grade 2) and colitis (n=1, Grade 5). There was one treatment-related death (colitis). Early Findings from Advanced Ovarian Cancer Cohort (Abstract #5510): These early findings from 26 heavily pre-treated patients with advanced ovarian cancer, which will be presented in a clinical science symposium on, June 1 by Dr. Andrea Varga, Gustave Roussy Institute, Villejuif, France, demonstrated an ORR (confirmed and unconfirmed) of 11.5% of patients (n=3/26) (95% CI, 2.4-30.2) (per RECIST v1.1). Additionally, there was a disease control rate (DCR) of 34.6% (n=9/26) (95% CI, 17.2-55.7). At the time of the analysis, the median duration of response had not been reached (27.9-36.3). Tumor shrinkage was achieved in 23% of evaluable patients. Adverse events were consistent with previously reported safety data for KEYTRUDA. Treatment-related adverse events (occurring in two or more patients) were observed in 18 patients. One Grade 3-4 treatment-related adverse event occurred (transaminases increased). Some patients experienced adverse events of special interest, including hyperthyroidism (n=2), hypothyroidism (n=3), myositis (n=1) and pancreatitis (n=1). There were no treatment related deaths.

Tesaro and Merck to Collaborate on a Combination Study of Niraparib and KEYTRUDA(R) (Pembrolizumab)

Tesaro, Inc. and Merck, known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, announced a collaboration to evaluate the combination of TESARO's niraparib plus Merck's anti-PD1 therapy, KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab), in a Phase 1/2 clinical trial. This trial is planned to evaluate the preliminary safety and efficacy of niraparib plus KEYTRUDA in patients with triple negative breast cancer or ovarian cancer. This trial will be conducted by TESARO and Merck, through a subsidiary, and is expected to begin by the end of 2015. The combination of these two mechanisms has the potential to provide a new approach to help women with triple negative breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

 

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