Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE: LLY) and Merck (NYSE: MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, today announced the extension of an existing collaboration to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the combination of Lilly's ALIMTA® (pemetrexed for injection) and Merck's KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) in a pivotal Phase III study in first-line nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The study will be sponsored by Merck and will be open to patients with NSCLC in the first-line setting, regardless of PD-L1 status. Financial details of the collaboration were not disclosed.
The expansion of this oncology clinical trial collaboration comes following the release of encouraging data from a Phase I study, presented earlier this year at the 16th World Congress on Lung Cancer, which evaluated pemetrexed, carboplatin and pembrolizumab in first-line nonsquamous NSCLC.
Pemetrexed is a leading therapeutic option used in combination with platinum-based therapies in this setting, making it an ideal candidate for combination studies with immunotherapy treatments. Pembrolizumab is a humanized monoclonal antibody that works by increasing the ability of the body's immune system to help detect and fight tumor cells. Pembrolizumab 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 – and is currently approved as a single-agent therapy for certain types of NSCLC.