Written by 6:37 pm Pharma news

Merck supports Peloton Therapeutics; Thermo Fisher, WuXi and Mayo Clinic join hands; JNJ’s anti-BCMA CAR-T sweeps multiple myeloma aside; Tafinlar-Mekinist combo of Novartis receives a boost

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Merck supports Peloton Therapeutics with positive kidney cancer data

Merck is revealing the data from a phase 2 study of a HIF-2α inhibitor after a year betting USD 1.05 billion on Peloton Therapeutics, and the deal is promising. 

The drug limited tumour growth in 43% and shrank tumors in 28% of patients with kidney cancer linked to a specific genetic condition, giving hope to a patient group that must undergo multiple abdominal surgeries, and to kidney cancer patients more broadly as well.

Although the 28% response rate might seem less, Merck hopes to see the drug—MK-6482—work in more patients. Some of the trial patients have been taking the drug for 18 weeks or so, but others are ahead in their treatment. 

MK-6482 inhibits HIF-2α (hypoxia-inducible factor-2 alpha), a protein that plays a role in maintaining tissue oxygen levels. Merck examined it in 61 patients with clear cell kidney cancer linked to von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) disease, a genetic condition that causes tumors and cysts to grow throughout the body. 

Thermo Fisher, WuXi and Mayo Clinic to develop COVID-19 antibody test

Thermo Fisher Scientific is developing its COVID-19 antibody test through an ongoing, three-way partnership with WuXi Diagnostics and the Mayo Clinic, and slates to search for international authorizations for the test over the upcoming weeks.

The ELISA test will be available to identify both IgM and IgG antibodies to the novel coronavirus and is designed to run on an open instrument platform following a clinical evaluation at the Mayo Clinic.

Since the outbreak was first identified, the scientific, regulatory and commercial teams were mobilized for virus analysis, identification, deployment of personal protective equipment as well as the development of therapies and vaccines.  

Preventing the COVID-19 spread, it requires comprehensive testing solutions, and Thermo Fisher has joined hands with WuXi Diagnostics and Mayo Clinic to respond to the widespread need for antibody-based tests. 

Johnson & Johnson’s anti-BCMA CAR-T sweeps multiple myeloma aside

Johnson & Johnson’s BCMA-targeting CAR-T therapy cast out tumors in 86% of patients with advanced multiple myeloma in a phase 1b study. The treatment could benefit patients who face a dismal prognosis and usually live for just a few months with the standard of care. 

JNJ-4528 has kept cancer away for nine months in 86% of the patients, which is very different to what these patients would typically face. The treatment also shrivelled tumors in all 29 study patients.

The study evaluated JNJ-4528 in cancer patients, whom it had returned after a median of five other treatments or had not reacted to the treatment in the first place. The majority of them (86%) had tried three different types of treatment: a proteasome inhibitor, an immunomodulatory drug and an anti-CD38 antibody.

Tafinlar-Mekinist combo of Novartis receives a boost

The checkpoint inhibitors and targeted therapies have transformed melanoma treatment, but Novartis contemplates combining the two for working even better.    

Moreover, it has some new data to bolster its case. The duo Tafinlar and Mekinist with experimental PD-1-blocking spartalizumab cast out tumors in 44% of patients with advanced melanoma, as shown in phase 3 data.

The study examined the trio as first-line therapy in 36 patients with stage 4 melanoma that had spread to different parts of the body. The patients had a specific BRAF mutation: BRAF V600.

Moreover, to eliminate tumors in 44% of those patients, the study saw that the treatment shrivelled tumors in 78% of patients. Tafinlar, a BRAF inhibitor, and Mekinist, a MEK inhibitor, are already approved to treat BRAF V600-mutant melanoma, but the investigators informed that the impact of BRAF+MEK inhibition on the tumour microenvironment (TME) suggests combined targeted therapy and immunotherapy may enhance outcomes.

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