"This collaboration between Pfizer and Merck is just one example of the willingness of sponsors to work together in an effort to accelerate progress against some of the most difficult-to-treat cancers," said Dr. Mace Rothenberg, senior vice president of Clinical Development and Medical Affairs and chief medical officer for Pfizer Oncology. "Understanding the effects of combining one drug, XALKORI, which inhibits an abnormally activated enzyme in patients with ALK-positive metastatic lung cancer, with the investigational drug, pembrolizumab, which harnesses the body's immune system to fight cancer, is vital if we are to continue to advance the care of lung cancer patients."
This multi-center, open-label clinical study is expected to begin in 2015. Pfizer will conduct the study.
"We are pleased to build upon our ongoing collaboration with Pfizer to evaluate potential combination regimens incorporating Merck's investigational immunotherapy pembrolizumab," said Dr. Eric Rubin, vice president, Oncology, Merck Research Laboratories. "Evidence from early studies of pembrolizumab monotherapy together with XALKORI's proven targeted therapeutic approach provides the scientific rationale for evaluating this combination for the treatment of lung cancer."
Both companies previously announced plans to evaluate the safety and efficacy of pembrolizumab in combination with Pfizer's small molecule kinase inhibitor axitinib (INLYTA®) in patients with renal cell carcinoma. Separately, pembrolizumab plus Pfizer's PF-05082566 (PF-2566), an investigational immuno-oncology agent that targets the human 4-1BB receptor, will be evaluated in multiple cancer types. These studies are expected to begin enrollment later this year.
Pembrolizumab (MK-3475) is an investigational, humanized, monoclonal antibody against PD-1 designed to reactivate anti-tumor immunity. Pembrolizumab exerts dual ligand blockade of the PD-1 pathway by inhibiting the interaction of PD-1 on T cells with its ligands PD-L1 and PD-L2.
Pembrolizumab is currently being evaluated across more than 30 types of cancers, as monotherapy and in combination. It is anticipated that by the end of 2014, the pembrolizumab development program will grow to more than 24 clinical trials, enrolling an estimated 6,000 patients at nearly 300 clinical trial sites worldwide.
About Pfizer Oncology
Pfizer Oncology is committed to the discovery, investigation and development of innovative treatment options to improve the outlook for cancer patients worldwide. Our strong pipeline of biologics and small molecules, one of the most robust in the industry, is studied with precise focus on identifying and translating the best scientific breakthroughs into clinical application for patients across a wide range of cancers. By working collaboratively with academic institutions, individual researchers, cooperative research groups, governments, and licensing partners, Pfizer Oncology strives to cure or control cancer with breakthrough medicines, to deliver the right drug for each patient at the right time.
About Merck Oncology
At Merck Oncology, our goal is to translate breakthrough science into biomedical innovations to help people with cancer worldwide. Harnessing immune mechanisms to fight cancer is the priority focus of our oncology research and development program. The Company is advancing a pipeline of immunotherapy candidates and combination regimens. Cancer is one of the world's most urgent unmet medical needs. Helping to empower people to fight cancer is our passion.
Today's Merck is a global healthcare leader working to help the world be well. Merck is known as MSD outside the United States and Canada. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and consumer care and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to healthcare through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships.