Merck, Syndax Combine Drugs in Clinical Trial for Cancer Patients

April 1, 2015

Syndax Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Merck have entered into a clinical trial collaboration to evaluate the safety and efficacy of combining Syndax’s entinostat, an investigational epigenetic therapy, with Merck’s KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab), the first anti-PD-1 therapy approved in the United States, according to a press release. The Phase 1b/2 study will evaluate this novel combination regimen in patients with either advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) or melanoma. The study is expected to begin enrolling patients in the second half of 2015.

Entinostat is an oral, highly selective histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation in combination with hormone therapy in advanced hormone receptor positive (HR+) breast cancer and currently in Phase 3 testing in this indication, the release said. Entinostat has been shown in preclinical models to reduce the number and function of host immune suppressor cells thereby enhancing the anti-tumor activity of immune checkpoint blockade. KEYTRUDA is a humanized monoclonal antibody that blocks the interaction between PD-1 (programmed death receptor-1) and its ligands, PD-L1 and PD-L2.

"We are excited to be working with Merck on this collaboration to evaluate the potential of these two novel therapies to improve clinical outcomes for patients," said Arlene Morris, president and chief executive officer of Syndax. “We hope that entinostat in combination with KEYTRUDA may build upon the enormous promise of immunotherapy in treating multiple forms of cancer.”

“The broad base of clinical data involving our anti-PD-1 therapy, KEYTRUDA, continues to provide a strong foundation for advancing the study of different novel combination regimens,” said Dr. Eric Rubin, vice president and therapeutic area head, oncology early-stage development, Merck Research Laboratories. “Our collaboration with Syndax is an important example of this effort and our commitment to further the study of breakthrough science in the area of immuno-oncology to help people with cancer.”

Read the full release