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BioLineRx to test lead candidate with MSD’s Keytruda in pancreatic cancer

pharmafile | January 13, 2016 | News story | Research and Development MSD, immunotherapy, keytruda, pembrolizumab 

Israeli biopharma company BioLineRx has announced a collaboration with MSD on a Phase II study investigating its lead oncology candidate, BL-8040, in combination with MSD’s immunotherapy Keytruda to treat metastatic pancreatic cancer.

BL-8040 has been shown in several clinical trials to be effective at inducing direct tumour cell death. Immuno-oncology studies suggest that drugs of this type – called CXCR4 antagonists – may stimulate anti-tumour T cells.

The companies believe Keytruda (pembrolizumab) has a complementary mechanism of action. MSD’s blockbuster treatment works by increasing the ability of the body’s immune system to help detect and fight tumour cells, activating T- lymphocytes, which may affect both tumour cells and healthy cells.

The Phase II study, set to begin by mid-2016, aims to discover if the drugs will, when used in combination, help T cells infiltrate the tumour, particularly in cancer types which have so far proven resistant to immunotherapies.

Dr Eric Rubin, vice president and therapeutic area head, oncology early-stage development, MSD Research Laboratories, comments: “Today, there is a great opportunity and need to bring forward new scientific breakthroughs for the treatment of pancreatic cancer. Evaluating the potential of combination therapies through strategic collaborations in difficult-to-treat tumour types continues to be an important part of our immuno-oncology clinical development program for Keytruda.”  

Dr Kinneret Savitsky, chief executive of BioLineRx, says: “We are extremely happy to collaborate with MSD, a pioneer and world leader in cancer immunotherapy. This marks the entrance of BL-8040 into this exciting field, which is already transforming the lives of many cancer patients. Because certain tumours exhibit only a modest response to existing immunotherapies, we are increasingly seeing clinical studies involving combinations of immuno-oncology agents with other classes of drugs.  

“We are initiating this study with the hope that it will show that the combination of BL-8040 with Keytruda has the potential to expand the benefit of immunotherapy to cancer types currently resistant to immuno-oncology treatments, such as pancreatic cancer, which represents a significant unmet medical need. If this potential can be realised, it will be an extremely important advance in the fight against cancer, as well as a seminal milestone for BioLineRx.”

Joel Levy

BioLineRx scientists

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