Eli Lilly and Company and Immunocore Limited have announced that they have entered into an immunotherapy-based clinical trial collaboration to explore the utility of Immunocore's lead T cell receptor-based investigational therapeutic, IMCgp100, in combination with Lilly's galunisertib (LY2157299) and merestinib (LY2801653) for the treatment of melanoma.
The goal of the collaboration is to identify combination regimens that provide synergies in efficacy and durability in patients with metastatic cutaneous and uveal melanomas.
Under the terms of the agreement, Immunocore and Lilly will conduct a Phase Ib/II clinical study evaluating the safety and preliminary efficacy of IMCgp100 in combination with galunisertib in metastatic cutaneous melanoma. A second Phase Ib/II study will be conducted combining IMCgp100 with merestinib in metastatic uveal melanoma. Lilly will act as trial sponsor. These studies are anticipated to begin in 2016. No financial terms were disclosed.
IMCgp100 and galunisertib are members of a new class of cancer treatments known as immunotherapies, which are designed to enhance the body's own immune system in fighting cancer and whose mechanisms of action have the potential to be complementary. IMCgp100 is Immunocore's most advanced Immune mobilizing mTCR Against Cancer molecules (ImmTAC), which are a novel class of bi-specific biologic drugs based on T cell receptors (TCRs) with ultra-high affinity for intracellular and extracellular cancer targets.
Lilly's galunisertib is a small molecule inhibitor of TGF beta R1 kinase that in vitro selectively blocks TGF beta signaling. TGF beta promotes tumor growth, suppresses the immune system and increases the ability of tumors to spread in the body. Merestinib is Lilly's small molecule multi-kinase inhibitor that in vitro selectively blocks signaling of MET, MST1R (RON), AXL, and MKNK1/2, pathways that potentially play a role in metastatic uveal melanoma.
"This collaboration with Immunocore underscores Lilly's commitment to discovering the potential of combination therapies, which will be key to the future of cancer care for people fighting diseases such as melanoma," said Richard Gaynor, M.D., senior vice president, product development and medical affairs for Lilly Oncology. "Lilly is building a robust portfolio of potential advances in immunotherapy through our own research as well as with strategic collaborations like Immunocore."
Immunocore and Lilly entered into a co-discovery and co-development collaboration, announced in July 2014, to research and potentially develop other novel T cell-based cancer therapies built on Immunocore's ImmTAC platform.
"We are very pleased to be able to announce a second collaboration with Lilly after entering into a collaboration last year," said Eliot Forster, chief executive officer of Immunocore. "Combining our ImmTAC, IMCgp100 with Lilly's galunisertib and merestinib has the potential to transform the treatment of metastatic cutaneous and uveal melanoma. Immunocore is committed to the development of IMCgp100 in metastatic uveal and cutaneous melanoma where there is such great unmet medical need."
Immunocore has recently announced clinical efficacy data in a Phase I/IIa trial with IMCgp100 in patients with advanced melanoma, as well as in the expansion cohort with uveal melanoma.