Cancer drug developer Affimed N.V. (NASDAQ:AFMD) has struck a collaboration agreement with Merck which will involve a new drugs trial for patients with Hodgkin lymphoma.
Nasdaq quoted Affimed, which is headquartered in Germany, will fund and conduct the Phase 1b trial in which it will combine Merck's KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) drug, with Affimed's proprietary candidate AFM13.
The trial will involve patients with Hodgkin lymphoma whose disease has relapsed or is refractory to chemotherapy. Its purpose will be to establish a dosing regimen, as well as assessing safety and efficacy.
It is expected that the study will begin in the first half of this year.
"AFM13, a first-in-class NK-cell engager, has shown an acceptable safety profile and preliminary antitumor activity in the first-in-human Phase 1 study,” said Dr Adi Hoess, Affimed chief executive.
“Additionally, preclinical studies indicate that a combination with an anti PD-1 therapy could act synergistically and represent an additional future treatment option for patients."
NK (or Natural Killer) cells are important in the activation of the innate immune system and the subsequent killing of tumor cells, Affimed explained in a statement.
The company also highlighted that in patient derived models at Stanford University AFM13, in combination with an anti-PD-1 antibody (Merck’s KEYTRUDA is an example of this kind of drug) demonstrated “impressive synergy” with up to 90% of the tumor eradicated.
Dr Eric Rubin, a vice president and therapeutic area head at Merck Research Laboratories, meanwhile, said: "Evaluating the potential for innovative combination therapies through strategic collaborations in difficult-to-treat tumor types continues to be an important part of our clinical development program for KEYTRUDA.”
"In partnering with companies such as Affimed, we continue our efforts to bring forward new scientific breakthroughs for patients with Hodgkin lymphoma and the field of immuno-oncology overall."