Merck, a leading science and technology company, today announced that new research from their marketed and pipeline compounds will be presented at this year’s European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO; October 7–11, 2016, Copenhagen, Denmark) annual meeting. Presentations will focus on hard-to-treat cancers, and include: study results for Erbitux® (cetuximab) in metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) and squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN); preliminary study results in bladder cancer and renal cell carcinoma (RCC) for avelumab, which is being developed in collaboration with Pfizer; and updates on the Phase II program for tepotinib* in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
“The data being presented at ESMO reflect our commitment to making a meaningful difference in patients’ lives, in particular those who are affected by hard-to-treat cancers,” said Luciano Rossetti, Executive Vice President, Head of Global Research & Development at the biopharma business of Merck. “We continue to focus on researching the full potential of Erbitux, as well as our ongoing pipeline development programs for avelumab and other early-stage oncology and immuno-oncology compounds.”
At ESMO, avelumab will be featured in four posters that add to the growing body of evidence of the potential of this investigational compound. These will include data updates in bladder cancer that confirm avelumab’s potential in this hard-to-treat cancer; and preliminary results from a combination study with axitinib in RCC that support the rationale to evaluate the combination in a Phase III pivotal study. Tepotinib, a highly selective c-Met kinase inhibitor, will also be highlighted in three posters, with updates on the ongoing study program in c-Met-positive metastatic NSCLC.
Several studies, which will be presented at ESMO, once again reaffirm Erbitux as a standard-of-care therapy for mCRC patients with RAS wild-type tumors and patients with SCCHN.
Merck believes that to truly deliver the promise of innovation for patients, it is vital to support and encourage research from other endeavors. This is demonstrated through Merck’s Grant for Oncology Innovation (GOI) initiative, which awards researchers for their pioneering independent work in pushing the boundaries of creativity and science in order to deliver transformative innovation. The award ceremony will once again coincide with ESMO and takes place on Sunday, October 9, 2016.
*Tepotinib is the proposed nonproprietary name for the c-Met kinase inhibitor (also known as MSC2156119J).
Avelumab and tepotinib are under clinical investigation and have not been proven to be safe and effective. There is no guarantee any product will be approved in the sought-after indication by any health authority worldwide.
Avelumab (also known as MSB0010718C) is an investigational, fully human antibody specific for a protein found on tumor cells called PD-L1, or programmed death ligand-1. Avelumab is thought to have a dual mechanism of action which may enable the immune system to find and attack cancer cells. By binding to PD-L1, avelumab is thought to prevent tumor cells from using PD-L1 for protection against white blood cells such as T-cells, exposing them to anti-tumor responses. Avelumab is also thought to help white blood cells such as natural killer (NK) cells find and attack tumors in a process known as ADCC, or antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity. In November 2014, Merck and Pfizer announced a strategic alliance to co-develop and co-commercialize avelumab.
Erbitux® is a highly active IgG1 monoclonal antibody targeting the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). As a monoclonal antibody, the mode of action of Erbitux is distinct from standard non-selective chemotherapy treatments in that it specifically targets and binds to the EGFR. This binding inhibits the activation of the receptor and the subsequent signal-transduction pathway, which results in reducing both the invasion of normal tissues by tumor cells and the spread of tumors to new sites. It is also believed to inhibit the ability of tumor cells to repair the damage caused by chemotherapy and radiotherapy and to inhibit the formation of new blood vessels inside tumors, which appears to lead to an overall suppression of tumor growth.
The most commonly reported side effect with Erbitux is an acne-like skin rash. In approximately 5% of patients, hypersensitivity reactions may occur during treatment with Erbitux; about half of these reactions are severe.
Erbitux has already obtained market authorization in over 90 countries world-wide for the treatment of colorectal cancer and for the treatment of squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN). Merck licensed the right to market Erbitux outside the US and Canada from ImClone LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Eli Lilly and Company, in 1998. Merck has an ongoing commitment to the advancement of oncology treatment and is currently investigating novel therapies in highly targeted areas.
Tepotinib (also known as MSC2156119J) is an investigational small-molecule inhibitor of the c-Met receptor tyrosine kinase capable of inhibiting both hepatocyte growth factor-dependent and -independent c-MET activation in low nanomolar concentrations. Alterations of the c-Met signaling pathway are found in various cancer types and correlate with aggressive tumor behavior and poor clinical prognosis. Tepotinib is currently under evaluation in Phase I/II trials.
Merck is a leading science and technology company in healthcare, life science and performance materials. Around 50,000 employees work to further develop technologies that improve and enhance life – from biopharmaceutical therapies to treat cancer or multiple sclerosis, cutting-edge systems for scientific research and production, to liquid crystals for smartphones and LCD televisions. In 2015, Merck generated sales of € 12.85 billion in 66 countries.
Founded in 1668, Merck is the world’s oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company. The founding family remains the majority owner of the publicly listed corporate group. Merck, Darmstadt, Germany holds the global rights to the Merck name and brand. The only exceptions are the United States and Canada, where the company operates as EMD Serono, MilliporeSigma and EMD Performance Materials.