Merck & Co, Lilly Form Immuno-Oncology Pact
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Eli Lilly and Company and Merck & Co. Inc. have formed another immuno-oncology collaboration that will evaluate abemaciclib (LY2835219), Lilly's cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) 4 and 6 inhibitor, and Merck's Keytruda (pembrolizumab) in a Phase I study across multiple tumor types. Based on the Phase I trial results, the collaboration has the potential to progress to Phase II trials in patients who have been diagnosed with either metastatic breast cancer or non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Lilly is the sponsor of the Phase I study, and of any subsequent Phase II studies, per the terms of the agreement. Enrollment is scheduled to begin in early 2016. Financial details of the collaboration were not disclosed.

Lilly's abemaciclib is a cell cycle inhibitor, designed to block the growth of cancer cells by specifically inhibiting CDK4 and CDK6. Pembrolizumab is a humanized monoclonal antibody that works by increasing the ability of the body’s immune system to help detect and fight tumor cells. Pembrolizumab blocks the interaction between PD-1 and its ligands, PD-L1 and PD-L2, thereby activating T lymphocytes, which may affect both tumor cells and healthy cells. Abemaciclib is in Phase III development with two trials in HR+ breast cancer patients, as well as a Phase III trial in lung cancer.

Keytruda is a humanized monoclonal antibody that works by increasing the ability of the body's immune system to help detect and fight tumor cells. Keytruda blocks the interaction between PD-1 and its ligands, PD-L1 and PD-L2, thereby activating T lymphocytes which may affect both tumor cells and healthy cells.

Keytruda is approved in the US for treating metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose tumors express PD-L1 as determined by an FDA-approved test with disease progression on or after platinum-containing chemotherapy. It is also approved for unresectable or metastatic melanoma and disease progression following ipilimumab and, if BRAF V600 mutation positive, a BRAF inhibitor.

Source: Merck & Co.

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