THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. and KENILWORTH, N.J. – Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) and Merck (NYSE:MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, today announced a cancer immunotherapy collaboration to support a Phase 1b/3 study investigating BLINCYTO® (blinatumomab) in combination with KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) in patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), which is the most common type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). BLINCYTO is Amgen's CD19 bispecific T cell engager (BiTE®), and KEYTRUDA is Merck's anti-PD-1 antibody. The study is an open-label, multicenter, randomized trial to evaluate safety and efficacy in patients with DLBCL.
The companies also announced a second immunotherapy cancer collaboration to support a Phase 1/2 study of AMG 820, Amgen's anti-colony-stimulating factor 1 receptor (CSF1R) antibody, in combination with KEYTRUDA in patients with select advanced solid tumors. The open-label study is designed to evaluate safety and efficacy in patients with select advanced solid tumors, including non-small-cell lung, colorectal and pancreatic cancers.
"We are pleased to enter these collaborations with Merck that build upon our growing cancer immunotherapy portfolio," said Sean E. Harper, M.D., executive vice president of Research and Development at Amgen. "We look forward to learning more about potential new combination treatment options for BLINCYTO and AMG 820 in disease areas where there remains a high unmet need."
Each immunotherapy is designed to modulate the immune system. BLINCYTO is a bispecific, single-chain antibody construct binding to CD19 and CD3. AMG 820 is a fully human antagonistic IgG2 monoclonal antibody that binds CSF1R and is designed to decrease tumor-associated macrophage (TAM) function. KEYTRUDA is a humanized monoclonal antibody that works by increasing the ability of the body's immune system to help detect and fight tumor cells. KEYTRUDA blocks the interaction between PD-1 and its ligands, PD-L1 and PD-L2, thereby activating T lymphocytes, which may affect both tumor cells and healthy cells.
"The combination of therapies is an important approach for overcoming the ever-changing and complex nature of many cancers," said Dr. Eric Rubin, vice president and therapeutic area head, oncology early-stage development, Merck Research Laboratories. "The combination of these immunotherapies may hold potential for patients with cancer and we look forward to partnering with Amgen to advance these trials with the hope of bringing forward new treatment combinations for patients with various types of cancer."
About Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
Lymphoma is cancer that begins in cells of the lymph system. The lymph system is part of the immune system, which helps the body fight infection and disease. Because lymph tissue is found throughout the body, lymphoma can begin almost anywhere. The two main types of lymphoma are Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). These can occur in both children and adults. There are many different types of NHL that form from different types of white blood cells (B-cells, T cells, NK cells). Most types of NHL form from B-cells. NHL may be indolent (slow-growing) or aggressive (fast-growing). The most common types of NHL in adults are diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, which is usually aggressive, and follicular lymphoma, which is usually indolent.
About Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer
Lung cancer, which forms in the tissues of the lungs, usually within cells lining the air passages, is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than die of colon, breast and prostate cancers combined. The two main types of lung cancer are non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC). The types are based on the way the cells look under a microscope. NSCLC is much more common than SCLC.
About Colorectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is cancer that starts in the colon or rectum. Most CRCs are adenocarcinomas (cancers that begin in cells that make and release mucus and other fluids). CRC often begins as a growth called a polyp, which may form on the inner wall of the colon or rectum. Some polyps become cancer over time. Finding and removing polyps can prevent CRC.
About Pancreatic Cancer
The pancreas lies behind the stomach and in front of the spine. There are two kinds of cells in the pancreas. Exocrine pancreas cells make enzymes that are released into the small intestine to help the body digest food. Neuroendocrine pancreas cells (such as islet cells) make several hormones, including insulin and glucagon, which help control sugar levels in the blood.
Most pancreatic cancers form in exocrine cells. These tumors do not secrete hormones and do not cause signs or symptoms. Some types of malignant pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, such as islet cell tumors, have a better prognosis than pancreatic exocrine cancers.
About AMG 820
AMG 820 is an investigational human monoclonal antibody that targets the colony-stimulating factor 1 receptor (CSF1R) and is designed to decrease tumor-associated macrophage (TAM) function. It is being investigated as a cancer treatment.
About BLINCYTO® (blinatumomab)
BLINCYTO is a bispecific CD19-directed CD3 T cell engager (BiTE®) antibody construct that binds specifically to CD19 expressed on the surface of cells of B-lineage origin and CD3 expressed on the surface of T cells.
BiTE® antibody constructs are a type of immunotherapy being investigated for fighting cancer by helping the body's immune system to detect and target malignant cells. The modified antibodies are designed to engage two different targets simultaneously, thereby juxtaposing T cells (a type of white blood cell capable of killing other cells perceived as threats) to cancer cells. BiTE® antibody constructs help place the T cells within reach of the targeted cell, with the intent of allowing T cells to inject toxins and trigger the cancer cell to die (apoptosis). BiTE® antibody constructs are currently being investigated for their potential to treat a wide variety of cancers.
BLINCYTO was granted breakthrough therapy and priority review designations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and is now approved in the U.S. for the treatment of Philadelphia chromosome-negative relapsed or refractory B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). This indication is approved under accelerated approval. Continued approval for this indication may be contingent upon verification of clinical benefit in subsequent trials.
BLINCYTO U.S. Product Safety Information Important Safety Information Regarding BLINCYTO®(blinatumomab) U.S. Indication
This safety information is specific to the current U.S. approved indication.
WARNING: CYTOKINE RELEASE SYNDROME and NEUROLOGICAL TOXICITIES
- Cytokine Release Syndrome (CRS), which may be life-threatening or fatal, occurred in patients receiving BLINCYTO. Interrupt or discontinue BLINCYTO® as recommended.
- Neurological toxicities, which may be severe, life-threatening or fatal, occurred in patients receiving BLINCYTO®. Interrupt or discontinue BLINCYTO® as recommended.
BLINCYTO® is contraindicated in patients with a known hypersensitivity to blinatumomab or to any component of the product formulation.
Warnings and Precautions
Cytokine Release Syndrome (CRS): Life-threatening or fatal CRS occurred in patients receiving BLINCYTO®. Infusion reactions have occurred and may be clinically indistinguishable from manifestations of CRS. Closely monitor patients for signs and symptoms of serious events such as pyrexia, headache, nausea, asthenia, hypotension, increased alanine aminotransferase (ALT), increased aspartate aminotransferase (AST), increased total bilirubin (TBILI), disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), capillary leak syndrome (CLS), and hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis/macrophage activation syndrome (HLH/MAS). Interrupt or discontinue BLINCYTO® as outlined in the Prescribing Information (PI).
Neurological Toxicities: Approximately 50% of patients receiving BLINCYTO® in clinical trials experienced neurological toxicities. Severe, life-threatening, or fatal neurological toxicities occurred in approximately 15% of patients, including encephalopathy, convulsions, speech disorders, disturbances in consciousness, confusion and disorientation, and coordination and balance disorders. The median time to onset of any neurological toxicity was 7 days. Monitor patients for signs or symptoms and interrupt or discontinue BLINCYTO® as outlined in the PI.
Infections: Approximately 25% of patients receiving BLINCYTO® experienced serious infections, some of which were life-threatening or fatal. Administer prophylactic antibiotics and employ surveillance testing as appropriate during treatment. Monitor patients for signs or symptoms of infection and treat appropriately, including interruption or discontinuation of BLINCYTO® as needed.
Tumor Lysis Syndrome (TLS): Life-threatening or fatal TLS has been observed. Preventive measures, including pretreatment nontoxic cytoreduction and on treatment hydration, should
be used during BLINCYTO® treatment. Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of TLS and interrupt or discontinue BLINCYTO® as needed to manage these events.
Neutropenia and Febrile Neutropenia, including life-threatening cases, have been observed. Monitor appropriate laboratory parameters during BLINCYTO® infusion and interrupt BLINCYTO® if prolonged neutropenia occurs.
Effects on Ability to Drive and Use Machines: Due to the possibility of neurological events, including seizures, patients receiving BLINCYTO® are at risk for loss of consciousness, and should be advised against driving and engaging in hazardous occupations or activities such as operating heavy or potentially dangerous machinery while BLINCYTO® is being administered.
Elevated Liver Enzymes: Transient elevations in liver enzymes have been associated with BLINCYTO® treatment. The majority of these events were observed in the setting of CRS. The median time to onset was 15 days. Grade 3 or greater elevations in liver enzymes occurred in 6% of patients outside the setting of CRS and resulted in treatment discontinuation in less than 1% of patients. Monitor ALT, AST, gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT), and TBILI prior to the start of and during BLINCYTO® treatment. BLINCYTO® treatment should be interrupted if transaminases rise to > 5 times the upper limit of normal (ULN) or if TBILI rises to > 3 times ULN.
Leukoencephalopathy: Although the clinical significance is unknown, cranial magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) changes showing leukoencephalopathy have been observed in patients receiving BLINCYTO®, especially in patients previously treated with cranial irradiation and anti-leukemic chemotherapy. Preparation and administration errors have occurred with BLINCYTO® treatment. Follow instructions for preparation (including admixing) and administration in the PI strictly to minimize medication errors (including underdose and overdose).
The most commonly reported adverse reactions (≥ 20%) in clinical trials were pyrexia (62%), headache (36%), peripheral edema (25%), febrile neutropenia (25%), nausea (25%), hypokalemia (23%), rash (21%), tremor (20%), diarrhea (20%) and constipation (20%). Serious adverse reactions were reported in 65% of patients. The most common serious adverse reactions (≥ 2%) included febrile neutropenia, pyrexia, pneumonia, sepsis, neutropenia, device-related infection, tremor, encephalopathy, infection, overdose, confusion, Staphylococcal bacteremia, and headache.
U.S. Dosage and Administration Guidelines
BLINCYTO® is administered as a continuous intravenous infusion at a constant flow rate using an infusion pump which should be programmable, lockable, non-elastomeric, and have an alarm. It is very important that the instructions for preparation (including admixing) and administration provided in the full Prescribing Information are strictly followed to minimize medication errors (including underdose and overdose). Please see full U.S. Prescribing Information and medication guide for BLINCYTO at www.BLINCYTO.com.
About KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) Injection 100 mg
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 metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose tumors express PD-L1 as determined by an FDA-approved test with disease progression on or after platinum-containing chemotherapy. Patients with EGFR or ALK genomic tumor aberrations should have disease progression on FDA-approved therapy for these aberrations prior to receiving KEYTRUDA. KEYTRUDA is also indicated at the same dosing for the treatment of patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma and disease progression following ipilimumab and, if BRAF V600 mutation positive, a BRAF inhibitor. These indications are 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 these indications may be contingent upon verification and description of clinical benefit in the confirmatory trials.
Selected Important Safety Information for KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab)
Pneumonitis, including fatal cases, occurred in patients receiving KEYTRUDA. Pneumonitis occurred in 12 (2.9%) of 411 melanoma patients, including Grade 2 or 3 cases in 8 (1.9%) and 1 (0.2%) patients, respectively, receiving KEYTRUDA. Pneumonitis occurred in 19 (3.5%) of 550 patients with NSCLC, including Grade 2 (1.1%), 3 (1.3%), 4 (0.4%), or 5 (0.2%) pneumonitis in patients, receiving KEYTRUDA. 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 or recurrent Grade 2 pneumonitis.
Colitis (including microscopic colitis) occurred in 4 (1%) of 411 patients with melanoma, including Grade 2 or 3 cases in 1 (0.2%) and 2 (0.5%) patients, respectively, receiving KEYTRUDA. Colitis occurred in 4 (0.7 %) of 550 patients with NSCLC, including Grade 2 (0.2%) or 3 (0.4%) colitis in patients 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 occurred in patients receiving KEYTRUDA. Hepatitis (including autoimmune hepatitis) occurred in 2 (0.5%) of 411 patients with melanoma, 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 with melanoma, including a Grade 2 case in 1 and a Grade 4 case in 1 (0.2% each) patient, receiving KEYTRUDA. Hypophysitis occurred in 1 (0.2 %) of 550 patients with NSCLC, which was Grade 3 in severity. Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of hypophysitis (including hypopituitarism and adrenal insufficiency). Administer corticosteroids and hormone replacement as indicated. Withhold KEYTRUDA for Grade 2 and withhold or discontinue for Grade 3 or Grade 4 hypophysitis.
Hyperthyroidism occurred in 5 (1.2%) of 411 patients with melanoma, 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 with melanoma, including a Grade 3 case in 1 (0.2%) patient, receiving KEYTRUDA. Hyperthyroidism occurred in 10 (1.8%) of 550 patients with NSCLC, including Grade 2 (0.7%) or 3 (0.3%). Hypothyroidism occurred in 38 (6.9%) of 550 patients with NSCLC, including Grade 2 (5.5%) or 3 (0.2%). 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 replacement hormones for hypothyroidism and manage hyperthyroidism with thionamides and beta-blockers as appropriate. Withhold or discontinue KEYTRUDA for Grade 3 or Grade 4 hyperthyroidism.
Type 1 diabetes mellitus, including diabetic ketoacidosis, has occurred in patients receiving KEYTRUDA. Monitor patients for hyperglycemia or other signs and symptoms of diabetes. Administer insulin for type 1 diabetes, and withhold KEYTRUDA and administer anti- hyperglycemics in patients with severe hyperglycemia.
Nephritis occurred in patients receiving KEYTRUDA. Nephritis occurred in 3 (0.7%) patients with melanoma, 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.
Other clinically important immune-mediated adverse reactions can occur. 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. Resume KEYTRUDA when the adverse reaction remains at Grade 1 or less following steroid taper. Permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA for any severe or Grade 3 immune-mediated adverse reaction that recurs and for any life-threatening immune-mediated adverse reaction.
Across clinical studies with KEYTRUDA, the following clinically significant, immune- mediated adverse reactions have occurred: bullous pemphigoid and Guillain-Barré syndrome. The following clinically significant, immune-mediated adverse reactions occurred in less than 1% of patients with melanoma treated with KEYTRUDA: exfoliative dermatitis, uveitis, arthritis, myositis, pancreatitis, hemolytic anemia, and partial seizures arising in a patient with inflammatory foci in brain parenchyma. The following clinically significant, immune-mediated adverse reactions occurred in less than 1% of 550 patients with NSCLC treated with KEYTRUDA: rash, vasculitis, hemolytic anemia, serum sickness, and myasthenia gravis.
Infusion-related reactions, including severe and life-threatening reactions, have occurred in patients receiving KEYTRUDA. Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of infusion related reactions including rigors, chills, wheezing, pruritus, flushing, rash, hypotension, hypoxemia, and fever. For severe or life-threatening reactions, stop infusion and permanently discontinue KEYTRUDA.
Based on its mechanism of action, KEYTRUDA can 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.
Among the 411 patients with metastatic melanoma, KEYTRUDA was discontinued for adverse reactions in 9% of 411 patients. Adverse reactions, reported in at least two patients, that led to discontinuation of KEYTRUDA were: pneumonitis, renal failure, and pain. Serious adverse reactions occurred in 36% of patients. The most frequent serious adverse reactions, reported in 2% or more of patients, were renal failure, dyspnea, pneumonia, and cellulitis. The most common adverse reactions (reported in at least 20% of patients) were fatigue (47%), cough (30%), nausea (30%), pruritus (30%), rash (29%), decreased appetite (26%), constipation (21%), arthralgia (20%), and diarrhea (20%).
Among the 550 patients with metastatic NSCLC, KEYTRUDA was discontinued due to adverse reactions in 14% of patients. Serious adverse reactions occurred in 38% of patients. The most frequent serious adverse reactions reported in 2% or more of patients were pleural effusion, pneumonia, dyspnea, pulmonary embolism, and pneumonitis. The most common adverse reactions (reported in at least 20% of patients) were fatigue (44%), decreased appetite (25%), dyspnea (23%), and cough (29%).
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 and for 4 months after the final dose.
Safety and effectiveness of KEYTRUDA have not been established in pediatric patients.
About Amgen's Commitment to Oncology
Amgen Oncology is committed to helping patients take on some of the toughest cancers, such as those that have been resistant to drugs, those that progress rapidly through the body and those where limited treatment options exist. Amgen's supportive care treatments help patients combat certain side effects of strong chemotherapy, and our targeted medicines and immunotherapies focus on more than a dozen different malignancies, ranging from blood cancers to solid tumors. With decades of experience providing therapies for cancer patients, Amgen continues to grow its portfolio of innovative and biosimilar oncology medicines.
Amgen is committed to unlocking the potential of biology for patients suffering from serious illnesses by discovering, developing, manufacturing and delivering innovative human therapeutics. This approach begins by using tools like advanced human genetics to unravel the complexities of disease and understand the fundamentals of human biology.
Amgen focuses on areas of high unmet medical need and leverages its biologics manufacturing expertise to strive for solutions that improve health outcomes and dramatically improve people's lives. A biotechnology pioneer since 1980, Amgen has grown to be one of the world's leading independent biotechnology companies, has reached millions of patients around the world and is developing a pipeline of medicines with breakaway potential.
Merck's Focus on Cancer
Our goal is to translate breakthrough science into innovative oncology medicines to help people with cancer worldwide. At Merck Oncology, helping people fight cancer is our passion and supporting accessibility to our cancer medicines is our commitment. Our focus is on pursuing research in immuno-oncology and we are accelerating every step in the journey – from lab to clinic – to potentially bring new hope to people with cancer. For more information about our oncology clinical trials, visit www.merck.com/clinicaltrials.
Today's Merck is a global health care leader working to help the world be well. Merck is known as MSD outside 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 health care through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. For more information, visit www.merck.com and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.
This news release contains forward-looking statements that are based on the current expectations and beliefs of Amgen Inc. and its subsidiaries (Amgen) and are subject to a number of risks, uncertainties and assumptions that could cause actual results to differ materially from those described. All statements, other than statements of historical fact, are statements that could be deemed forward-looking statements, including estimates of revenues, operating margins, capital expenditures, cash, other financial metrics, expected legal, arbitration, political, regulatory or clinical results or practices, customer and prescriber patterns or practices, reimbursement activities and outcomes and other such estimates and results. Forward-looking statements involve significant risks and uncertainties, including those discussed below and more fully described in the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) reports filed by Amgen Inc., including Amgen Inc.'s most recent annual report on Form 10-K and any subsequent periodic reports on Form 10-Q and Form 8-K. Please refer to Amgen Inc.'s most recent Forms 10-K, 10-Q and 8-K for additional information on the uncertainties and risk factors related to Amgen's business. Unless otherwise noted, Amgen is providing this information as of Dec. 4, 2015, and expressly disclaims any duty to update information contained in this news release.
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Please see Prescribing Information for KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) at http://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
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