Merck to partner with SignalChem on Keytruda combo trial

By Jenni Spinner

- Last updated on GMT

(Mohammed Haneefa Nizamudeen/iStock via Getty Images Plus)
(Mohammed Haneefa Nizamudeen/iStock via Getty Images Plus)

Related tags Merck Lung cancer Oncology Cancer Clinical trial

The two companies will work together to evaluate the combination of SLC-391 and Keytruda in treating patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer.

Clinical-stage oncology drug development firm SignalChem Lifesciences will collaborate with Merck to evaluate the effectiveness of a combination solution to treat advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The companies will explore the possibility of using Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy Keytruda (pembrolizumab) and SLC-391, SignalChem’s selective AXL inhibitor, in treating NSCLC.

Jun Yan, president of SignalChem, said, “We consider Merck’s clinical development expertise to be valuable and believe this relationship may contribute to the development of SLC-391 for the treatment of patients with advanced-stage lung cancer. These patients experience aggressive tumors that are often difficult to treat. We hope this collaboration with Merck will lead to a new approach that addresses this important unmet need​.”

AXL, a member of the TAM family protein tyrosine kinases (Tyro3, AXL and Mer), reportedly plays a key role in cell survival, angiogenesis, metastasis and therapeutic resistance. SLC-391 is a clinical-stage small molecule AXL inhibitor with high potency, selectivity and desirable pharmaceutical properties; it disrupts cell division, inhibiting tumor growth and causing cancer cells to die.

Based on emerging evidence, a clinical investigation has been initiated to evaluate SLC-391 in combination with Keytruda in treating patients dealing with advanced NSCLC. SignalChem plans to conduct the study in multiple cancer centers in the US and Canada to evaluate the clinical outcome of combining SLC-391 and Keytruda.

Additionally, SignalChem and Merck will jointly conduct the SKYLITE trial, a Phase II study for patients with NSCLC. This trial is a multi-center, single-arm, open-label, Phase II Study of SLC-391 in combination with Keytruda in subjects with NSCLC.

According to researchers, subjects in the Skylite trial will receive daily doses of SLC-391 orally for 21-day cycles in combination with the commercially approved dose and schedule of Keytruda. The study will evaluate the safety and efficacy of the combination therapy and includes the exploration of biomarkers relating to AXL signaling that may correlate with anti-tumor activity.

Lung cancer is a leading cause of cancer deaths around the globe; each year, more people die of lung cancer than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined. NSCLC is the most common type of lung cancer, accounting for 84% of all lung cancer diagnoses; statistics show the overall five-year survival rate for NSCLC is 24%, ranging from 61% for localized NSCLC to 6% for metastatic disease.

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