Lilly and Merck Extend Immuno-oncology Collaboration
Eli Lilly and Merck have announced their existing collaboration will be extended with the aim to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the combination of Lilly’s Alimta (pemetrexed for injection) and Merck’s Keytruda (pembrolizumab) in a pivotal Phase III study in first-line nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
The study will be sponsored by Merck and will be open to patients with NSCLC in the first-line setting, regardless of PD-L1 status.
Richard Gaynor, senior vice president, product development and medical affairs for Lilly Oncology, says: “The extension of our immuno-oncology collaboration with Merck reinforces our combination-focused strategy, which we believe has the potential to help this patient population where there is a significant unmet need. Building upon this scientific partnership represents our shared, strong commitment to improve the lives of those living with cancer.”
The expansion of the oncology clinical trial collaboration comes following the release of encouraging data from a Phase I study, which evaluated pemetrexed, carboplatin and pembrolizumab in first-line nonsquamous NSCLC.
Roger Dansey, therapeutic area head and senior vice president, oncology late stage development, Merck Research Laboratories, says: “Based on the data for ALIMTA, we believe this collaboration with Lilly has great potential to help even more patients. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with Lilly across all of these trials – including the registrational Phase III all-comers trial for NSCLC.”
Pemetrexed is a leading therapeutic option used in combination with platinum-based therapies in this setting, making it an ideal candidate for combination studies with immunotherapy treatments.
Pembrolizumab meanwhile, is a humanised monoclonal antibody that increases the ability of the body’s immune system to help detect and fight tumour cells. Pembrolizumab blocks the interaction between PD-1 and its ligands, PD-L1 and PD-L2, thereby activating T lymphocytes, which it is believed may affect both tumour cells and healthy cells. The treatment is currently approved as a single-agent therapy for certain types of NSCLC.
Other ongoing trials from the original agreement between Lilly and Merck, through a subsidiary, include a Phase I/II study examining the combination of ramucirumab and pembrolizumab in multiple tumours and a Phase I/II study examining the combination of necitumumab with pembrolizumab in NSCLC.