BioLineRx Ltd. has announced a collaboration with MSD, known as Merck in the US and Canada, to support a Phase 2 study investigating BioLineRx's BL-8040 in combination with KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab), MSD's anti-PD-1 therapy, in patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer.
The study is an open-label, multicenter, single-arm trial designed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of this combination in patients with metastatic pancreatic adenocarcinoma.
BL-8040, BioLineRx's lead oncology platform, is a CXCR4 antagonist that has been shown in several clinical trials to be a robust mobilizer of immune cells and to be effective at inducing direct tumor cell death. Additional findings in the field of immuno-oncology suggest that CXCR4 antagonists may be effective in inducing the migration of anti-tumor T cells into the tumor micro-environment. 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. The Phase 2 study will evaluate the clinical response, safety and tolerability of the combination of these therapies as well as multiple pharmacodynamic parameters, including the ability to improve infiltration of T cells into the tumor and their reactivity.
"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," stated Dr. Kinneret Savitsky, Chief Executive Officer of BioLineRx. "Because certain tumors 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 realized, it will be an extremely important advance in the fight against cancer, as well as a seminal milestone for BioLineRx."
"Today, there is a great opportunity and need to bring forward new scientific breakthroughs for the treatment of pancreatic cancer," said Dr. Eric Rubin, vice president and therapeutic area head, oncology early-stage development, MSD Research Laboratories. "Evaluating the potential of combination therapies through strategic collaborations in difficult-to-treat tumor types continues to be an important part of our immuno-oncology clinical development program for KEYTRUDA."
The agreement is between BioLineRx and MSD, through a subsidiary. Per the terms of the agreement, the trial will be sponsored and performed by BioLineRx. The study is planned to commence by mid-2016. Upon completion of the study, or at any earlier point, both parties will have the option to expand the collaboration to include a pivotal registration study. Additional details of the collaboration were not disclosed.