Syndax and Merck to Collaborate on Immuno-Oncology Study Evaluating Entinostat in Combination with KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) in Lung Cancer and Melanoma

Print 31 March 2015

WALTHAM, Mass. & KENILWORTH, N.J.--()--Syndax Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and Merck (NYSE:MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, announced today that they have entered into a clinical trial collaboration to evaluate the safety and efficacy of combining Syndax’s entinostat, an investigational epigenetic therapy, with Merck’s KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab), the first anti-PD-1 therapy approved in the United States. The Phase 1b/2 study will evaluate this novel combination regimen in patients with either advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) or melanoma. The study is expected to begin enrolling patients in the second half of 2015.

“Our collaboration with Syndax is an important example of this effort and our commitment to further the study of breakthrough science in the area of immuno-oncology to help people with cancer.”

Entinostat is an oral, highly selective histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation in combination with hormone therapy in advanced hormone receptor positive (HR+) breast cancer and currently in Phase 3 testing in this indication. Entinostat has been shown in preclinical models to reduce the number and function of host immune suppressor cells thereby enhancing the anti-tumor activity of immune checkpoint blockade. KEYTRUDA is a humanized monoclonal antibody that blocks the interaction between PD-1 (programmed death receptor-1) and its ligands, PD-L1 and PD-L2.

"We are excited to be working with Merck on this collaboration to evaluate the potential of these two novel therapies to improve clinical outcomes for patients," said Arlene Morris, president and chief executive officer of Syndax. “We hope that entinostat in combination with KEYTRUDA may build upon the enormous promise of immunotherapy in treating multiple forms of cancer.”

“The broad base of clinical data involving our anti-PD-1 therapy, KEYTRUDA, continues to provide a strong foundation for advancing the study of different novel combination regimens,” said Dr. Eric Rubin, vice president and therapeutic area head, oncology early-stage development, Merck Research Laboratories. “Our collaboration with Syndax is an important example of this effort and our commitment to further the study of breakthrough science in the area of immuno-oncology to help people with cancer.”

The financial terms and additional details of the agreement between Syndax and Merck, through a subsidiary, were not disclosed. The agreement includes a provision where the parties may extend the collaboration to include a potential Phase 3 clinical trial. The planned Phase 1b/2 multicenter, open-label clinical trial will be conducted in two parts. The Phase 1b portion is designed to determine the safety and tolerability of entinostat in combination with KEYTRUDA. The Phase 2 portion is designed to evaluate the efficacy of entinostat combined with KEYTRUDA in patients with advanced NSCLC and melanoma.

About KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab)

KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) is a humanized monoclonal antibody that blocks the interaction between PD-1 and its ligands, PD-L1 and PD-L2. By binding to the PD-1 receptor and blocking the interaction with the receptor ligands, KEYTRUDA releases the PD-1 pathway-mediated inhibition of the immune response, including the anti-tumor immune response.

KEYTRUDA is indicated in the United States at a dose of 2 mg/kg administered as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every three weeks for the treatment of patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma and disease progression following ipilimumab and, if BRAF V600 mutation positive, a BRAF inhibitor. This indication is approved under accelerated approval based on tumor response rate and durability of response. An improvement in survival or disease-related symptoms has not yet been established. Continued approval for this indication may be contingent upon verification and description of clinical benefit in the confirmatory trials.

Merck is advancing a broad and fast-growing clinical development program for KEYTRUDA with more than 70 clinical trials – across more than 30 tumor types and over 8,000 patients – both as a monotherapy and in combination with other therapies.

Selected Important Safety Information for KEYTRUDA

Pneumonitis occurred in 12 (2.9%) of 411 patients with advanced melanoma receiving KEYTRUDA (the approved indication in the United States), including Grade 2 or 3 cases in 8 (1.9%) and 1 (0.2%) patients, respectively. Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of pneumonitis. Evaluate suspected pneumonitis with radiographic imaging. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater pneumonitis. Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 2; permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 3 or 4 pneumonitis.

Colitis (including microscopic colitis) occurred in 4 (1%) of 411 patients, including Grade 2 or 3 cases in 1 (0.2%) and 2 (0.5%) patients respectively, receiving KEYTRUDA. Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of colitis. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater colitis. Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 2 or 3; permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 4 colitis.

Hepatitis (including autoimmune hepatitis) occurred in 2 (0.5%) of 411 patients, including a Grade 4 case in 1 (0.2%) patient, receiving KEYTRUDA. Monitor patients for changes in liver function. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater hepatitis and, based on severity of liver enzyme elevations, withhold or discontinue KEYTRUDA.

Hypophysitis occurred in 2 (0.5%) of 411 patients, including a Grade 2 case in 1 and a Grade 4 case in 1 (0.2% each) patient, receiving KEYTRUDA. Monitor for signs and symptoms of hypophysitis. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater hypophysitis. Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 2; withhold or discontinue for Grade 3; and permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 4 hypophysitis.

Nephritis occurred in 3 (0.7%) patients receiving KEYTRUDA, consisting of one case of Grade 2 autoimmune nephritis (0.2%) and two cases of interstitial nephritis with renal failure (0.5%), one Grade 3 and one Grade 4. Monitor patients for changes in renal function. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 2 or greater nephritis. Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 2; permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 3 or 4 nephritis.

Hyperthyroidism occurred in 5 (1.2%) of 411 patients, including Grade 2 or 3 cases in 2 (0.5%) and 1 (0.2%) patients respectively, receiving KEYTRUDA. Hypothyroidism occurred in 34 (8.3%) of 411 patients, including a Grade 3 case in 1 (0.2%) patient, receiving KEYTRUDA. Thyroid disorders can occur at any time during treatment. Monitor patients for changes in thyroid function (at the start of treatment, periodically during treatment, and as indicated based on clinical evaluation) and for clinical signs and symptoms of thyroid disorders. Administer corticosteroids for Grade 3 or greater hyperthyroidism. Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 3; permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 4 hyperthyroidism. Isolated hypothyroidism may be managed with replacement therapy without treatment interruption and without corticosteroids.

Other clinically important immune-mediated adverse reactions can occur. The following clinically significant, immune-mediated adverse reactions occurred in less than 1% of patients treated with KEYTRUDA: exfoliative dermatitis, uveitis, arthritis, myositis, pancreatitis, hemolytic anemia, partial seizures arising in a patient with inflammatory foci in brain parenchyma, adrenal insufficiency, myasthenic syndrome, optic neuritis, and rhabdomyolysis.

For suspected immune-mediated adverse reactions, ensure adequate evaluation to confirm etiology or exclude other causes. Based on the severity of the adverse reaction, withhold KEYTRUDA and administer corticosteroids. Upon improvement of the adverse reaction to Grade 1 or less, initiate corticosteroid taper and continue to taper over at least 1 month. Restart KEYTRUDA if the adverse reaction remains at Grade 1 or less. Permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for any severe or Grade 3 immune-mediated adverse reaction that recurs and for any life-threatening immune-mediated adverse reaction.

Based on its mechanism of action, KEYTRUDA may cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman. If used during pregnancy, or if the patient becomes pregnant during treatment, apprise the patient of the potential hazard to a fetus. Advise females of reproductive potential to use highly effective contraception during treatment and for 4 months after the last dose of KEYTRUDA.

For the treatment of advanced melanoma, KEYTRUDA was discontinued for adverse reactions in 6% of 89 patients who received the recommended dose of 2 mg/kg and 9% of 411 patients across all doses studied. Serious adverse reactions occurred in 36% of patients receiving KEYTRUDA. The most frequent serious adverse drug reactions reported in 2% or more of patients were renal failure, dyspnea, pneumonia, and cellulitis.

The most common adverse reactions (reported in ≥20% of patients) were fatigue (47%), cough (30%), nausea (30%), pruritus (30%), rash (29%), decreased appetite (26%), constipation (21%), arthralgia (20%), and diarrhea (20%).

The recommended dose of KEYTRUDA is 2 mg/kg administered as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every three weeks until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity. No formal pharmacokinetic drug interaction studies have been conducted with KEYTRUDA. It is not known whether KEYTRUDA is excreted in human milk. Because many drugs are excreted in human milk, instruct women to discontinue nursing during treatment with KEYTRUDA. Safety and effectiveness of KEYTRUDA have not been established in pediatric patients.

About Syndax

Syndax is developing entinostat, an oral, highly selective HDAC inhibitor with epigenetic and immunomodulatory activity that is being evaluated in multiple combination regimens for the treatment of patients with therapy-resistant cancers. Entinostat has been designated a Breakthrough Therapy by the FDA when used in combination with exemestane in HR+ advanced (locally advanced or metastatic) breast cancer. A pivotal Phase 3 clinical study, being conducted under a special protocol assessment (SPA), combining entinostat with exemestane for the treatment of hormone receptor-positive metastatic breast cancer is currently enrolling. Syndax is also developing an immuno-oncology platform to improve responsiveness to checkpoint inhibitors based on entinostat’s ability to down-regulate immune suppressor cells. Syndax holds rights to entinostat in most major markets.

Merck’s Focus on Cancer

Our goal is to translate breakthrough science into biomedical innovations to help people with cancer worldwide. For Merck Oncology, helping people fight cancer is our passion, supporting accessibility to our cancer medicines is our commitment, and pursuing research in immuno-oncology is our focus to potentially bring new hope to people with cancer. For more information about our oncology clinical trials, visit www.merck.com/clinicaltrials.

About Merck

Today's Merck is a global healthcare leader working to help the world be well. Merck is known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to healthcare through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. For more information, visit www.merck.com and connect with us on TwitterFacebook and YouTube.

Merck Forward-Looking Statement

This news release includes “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the safe harbor provisions of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements are based upon the current beliefs and expectations of Merck’s management and are subject to significant risks and uncertainties. If underlying assumptions prove inaccurate or risks or uncertainties materialize, actual results may differ materially from those set forth in the forward-looking statements.

Risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, general industry conditions and competition; general economic factors, including interest rate and currency exchange rate fluctuations; the impact of pharmaceutical industry regulation and healthcare legislation in the United States and internationally; global trends toward healthcare cost containment; technological advances, new products and patents attained by competitors; challenges inherent in new product development, including obtaining regulatory approval; Merck’s ability to accurately predict future market conditions; manufacturing difficulties or delays; financial instability of international economies and sovereign risk; dependence on the effectiveness of Merck’s patents and other protections for innovative products; and the exposure to litigation, including patent litigation, and/or regulatory actions.

Merck undertakes no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. Additional factors that could cause results to differ materially from those described in the forward-looking statements can be found in Merck’s 2014 Annual Report on Form 10-K and the company’s other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) available at the SEC’s Internet site (www.sec.gov).

Please see Prescribing Information for KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) athttp://www.merck.com/product/usa/pi_circulars/k/keytruda/keytruda_pi.pdf and the Medication Guide for KEYTRUDA at http://www.merck.com/product/usa/pi_circulars/k/keytruda/keytruda_mg.pdf

Return

All Partners

All Portfolio

MEDIA CENTER

  • NovaMedica began construction of a pharmaceutical plant in the Kaluga region

    NovaMedica began construction of a pharmaceutical plant in the Kaluga region

    Russian pharmaceutical company NovaMedica, a portfolio company of RUSNANO, announces the start of construction of a plant for the production of sterile injectable drugs as part of its long-term strategy to localize innovative medicines and technologies of their development and production in Russia. The plant will be built in the industrial park “Vorsino” in the Kaluga region.

All news