Affimed in immuno-oncology deal
Affimed means to put a promising drug combination to the test. With support from MSD, the German biopharma will carry out clinical trials for an immunotherapy combining treatments of both companies.
Affimed will be responsible for funding and conducting a Phase 1b clinical trial to investigate the combined use of Keytruda (pembrolizumab), Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy, and Affimed’s own antibody AFM13 for the treatment of patients with Hodgkin lymphoma. While Affimed will bear the expense of the trial, MSD will supply Keytruda. The study, scheduled to start in the first half of 2016, is set to establish a dosing regimen for this combination therapy and assess its safety and efficacy.
AFM13 is a bispecific antibody targeting CD30, an antigen specifically expressed in a variety of T- and B-cell lymphomas, which in turn targets CD16A, an antigen expressed on natural killer (NK-) cells. NK-cells are important for the activation of the innate immune system and the subsequent killing of tumour cells. Keytruda is a humanised monoclonal antibody that increases the ability of the body’s immune system to detect and fight tumour cells. Pembrolizumab blocks the interaction between PD-1 and its ligands, PD-L1 and PD-L2, thereby activating T lymphocytes, which may affect both tumour cells and healthy cells.
In patient-derived xenograft models, a combination of the two antibodies has already demonstrated impressive synergy, with up to 90 percent of the tumour eradicated. “Our development strategy is to combine our NK-cell engagers with other immunotherapies that could enhance their efficacy through the uptake of both NK-cells and T cells, and the collaboration with Merck is an important step in executing this strategy,” said Affimed CEO Adi Hoess.