Merck, the world's oldest pharmaceutical company, today announced collaboration agreements with three other companies to explore the efficacy of the company's investigational immunotherapy compound, MK-3475.
In a trio of individual agreements with three very different pharmaceutical companies, Merck will learn just what it has in MK-3475, a highly selective anti-PD-1 immunotherapy that the company believes can help restore the inherent ability of the human immune system to spot and kill cancer cells. This ability, it is believed, can be evaded by tumors through a mechanism that exploits the PD-1 inhibitory checkpoint protein.
Merck looks for ways to mobilize patients' own immune systems
According to Merck, by inhibiting the PD-1 protein, MK-3475 can in essence "release the brakes" on the immune system to target mutated cancer cells.
Enlisting the body's own defenses in the fight against cancer is regarded as the holy grail of cancer treatment, and Merck's vision of a PD-1 inhibitor is just one of several approaches to achieving this same goal.
Merck's clinical collaboration agreements include
- Working in combination with Amgen’s investigational oncolytic immunotherapy T-VEC virus in a Phase I/II study in patients with previously untreated advanced melanoma.
- Working with Incyte to launch a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled Phase I/II study to evaluate the safety and efficacy of a regimen combining MK-3475 with Incyte’s investigational immunotherapy agent, INCB24360, an indoleamine 2, 3-dioxygenase (IDO) inhibitor, in patients with previously treated metastatic and recurrent NSCLC, among other advanced or metastatic cancers.
- Working with Pfizer to evaluate in Phase I/II clinical studies the safety and efficacy of MK-3475 in combination with Pfizer’s small molecule kinase inhibitor INLYTA® (axitinib) in patients with renal cell carcinoma, and separately MK-3475 plus PF-05082566 (PF-2566), an investigational immuno-oncology agent that targets the human 4-1BB receptor, in multiple cancer types.
Additionally, Merck will be testing the activity of MK-3475 against 20 previously untested cancer subtypes.
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