Merck Pauses Enrollment Of Blood Cancer Drug Study

Merck & Co said on Monday it paused enrolments in two late-stage studies testing its immunotherapy drug Keytruda used in combination with other therapies to treat multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer. Merck said its other Keytruda trials have not been affected.

“Until now, the FDA has approved cancer treatments based on where in the body the cancer started – for example, lung or breast cancers”. The combination drugs included Celgene Corp.’s drug Pomalyst and a low-dose steroid, and a second trial looked at Keytruda with the drug Celgene’s Revlimid.

Merck shares were down 1 percent to $63.75 in trading after the markets close in NY.

Keytruda isn’t just Merck’s biggest drug in the pipeline.

Patients now enrolled in the two studies will continue to receive treatment, Merck said, adding that its other clinical studies of Keytruda will continue unchanged. After an onslaught of upbeat trial results and regulatory news, maker Merck Monday night announced that it was pausing enrollment on a pair of phase 3 multiple myeloma studies of the med to investigate trial deaths.

Earlier this month the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Keytruda for adult and paediatric patients with unresectable or metastatic solid tumours with an identified microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H) or mismatch fix deficient (dMMR) biomarker.

Keytruda is a humanized monoclonal antibody that works by blocking interaction between the programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) and its receptor ligands, PD-L1 and PD-L2, thus increasing the immune system’s ability to fight cancer.

BMS’ Opdivo, as well as Genentech (RHHBY)’s PD-1 inhibitor Tecentriq, have seen their share of troubles.

There are now five anti-PD-1 drugs on the market. In May, Merck KgaA (MKGAF.PK) and Pfizer saw approval for Bavencio.

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