As reported by PMLive on Janurary 15, 2015, Merck & Co. has agreed to a deal with Eli Lilly & Co. to research combination cancer treatments involving Merck's promising immunotherapy Keytruda, approved by the FDA in September 4, 2014. “The two companies will investigate several different regimens that put Keytruda (pembrolizumab), part of the highly anticipated anti-PD-1 (anti-programmed death receptor 1) class of cancer immunotherapies, together with a cancer compound in Lilly's portfolio. The companies confirmed three study programs that will take place as part of the collaboration, including a phase II study combining Keytruda and Lilly's Alimta (pemetrexed) in lung cancer,” PMLive reported. Furthermore, acccording to PMLive, “a second lung cancer study, this time phase I/II, will combine Keytruda with the investigational drug necitumumab, while the pairing of Keytruda and Cyramza (ramucirumab) will be investigated in multiple cancers in phase I/II trials.” PMLive said that additional details, including financial terms of the deal, had not disclosed. According to PMLive, the Merck-Lilly collaboration highlights the importance of Keytruda to Merck's growth plans. The drug is one of the most advanced drugs in the anti-PD-1 class, and became the first such product approved in the U.S., when it received FDA backing for the treatment of melanoma patients in September 2014 (see more on this below).
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