Incyte CorporationINCY , along with Merck & Co. Inc. MRK , announced that the companies have expanded their collaboration agreement related to the treatment of melanoma. A phase III study on Incyte's epacadostat in combination with Merck's Keytruda for the first-line treatment for patients with advanced or metastatic melanoma has been included under the alliance.
Under the terms of the agreement, both companies have agreed they will not initiate new pivotal studies on an IDO1 inhibitor in combination with a PD-1/PD-L1 antagonist as first-line therapy for the treatment of advanced or metastatic melanoma with any third party for two years. However, they have agreed to offer each other the opportunity to collaborate on any new pivotal study involving an IDO1 inhibitor in combination with a PD-1/PD-L1 antagonist for various types of melanoma and lines of therapy outside the current collaboration.
The companies will equally fund the phase III study which is expected be initiated in the first half of 2016.
We note that Incyte has a clinical trial collaboration agreement with Merck to evaluate the safety and efficacy of epacadostat in combination with Keytruda in a phase I/II study for the treatment of previously treated metastatic and recurrent non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and other advanced or metastatic cancers.
The combination is currently in a phase I/II study on patients with advanced malignancies. Safety and efficacy results from the study will be presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer next month.
According to information provided by the company, in the U.S., melanoma accounts for approximately 5% of all new cases of cancer each year. According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate for late-stage or metastatic disease is 15%.
The melanoma market is highly crowded given the presence of drugs Opdivo, Yervoy and Tafinlar among others.
Currently, Incyte carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy), while Merck carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Anika Therapeutics Inc. ANIK and Nexvet Biopharma Public Limited Company NVET are other well-ranked stocks in the health care sector, both sporting a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).
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