Merck and NanoString Technologies, Inc. have announced a clinical research collaboration to develop an assay that will optimize immune-related gene expression signatures and evaluate the potential to predict benefit from Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy, KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab), in multiple tumor types.
The collaboration between NanoString Technologies, Inc., a provider of life science tools for translational research and molecular diagnostic products, and Merck, through a subsidiary, will utilize NanoString’s nCounter® Analysis System to optimize gene expression signatures as part of the clinical development program for KEYTRUDA.
“Our commitment to advancing the science of immuno-oncology includes pursuing cutting-edge RNA and DNA approaches to identify a range of biomarkers, such as immune-related gene expression signatures, that in addition to PD-L1 expression, may help to identify patients who may be more likely to experience improved benefit with KEYTRUDA,” said Dr. Eric Rubin, vice president and therapeutic area head, oncology early-stage development, Merck Research Laboratories. “Our collaboration with NanoString Technologies is an important advancement for our early-stage, immuno-oncology development program. Early data exploring the predictive value of the NanoString-derived gene expression signatures with KEYTRUDA will be presented at ASCO 2015.”
“We are excited to work with Merck to help direct treatment with KEYTRUDA,” said Brad Gray, president and chief executive officer of NanoString Technologies. “New approaches in immuno-oncology, like KEYTRUDA, have the potential to transform cancer care across many different tumor types. With our nCounter technology and in vitro diagnostic capability, NanoString is ideally positioned to address the critical challenge of matching patients to powerful new therapies. This collaboration with Merck complements our existing relationships with MD Anderson and the Cancer Immunotherapy Trials Network, and builds on our leadership position in immuno-oncology biomarker development.”
Early Data on Immune-based Gene Expression Signatures at 2015 ASCO Annual Meeting
First-time presentations of data evaluating immune-based gene expression signatures developed using NanoString’s nCounter® Analysis System, and their correlation to patient benefit with KEYTRUDA will be presented at this year’s 51st Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (May 29-June 2, 2015 in Chicago). The early data to be presented include findings in bladder cancer (Abstract #4502), advanced melanoma (Abstract #3001), gastric cancer (Abstract #3026), and head and neck cancer (Abstract #6017). These early data are based on an initial signature, the interferon-gamma response gene, which was derived from initial findings that expression of this immune response gene predicted response to KEYTRUDA in advanced melanoma patients. Additional signatures are in development based on extension of these initial findings.