US-based biopharmaceutical company Phanes Therapeutics has signed a clinical collaboration agreement with Merck, known as MSD outside North America, to evaluate PT886 in combination with KEYTRUDA.

The combination therapy will be studied in patients with claudin 18.2 positive gastric or gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) adenocarcinomas.

Merck has agreed to provide its anti-PD-1 therapy, KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab), for the study.

Phanes is currently enrolling patients in a Phase I clinical trial of PT886 in the US.

This multi-centre study will assess the drug’s preliminary efficacy, pharmacodynamics, pharmacokinetics, tolerability and safety in patients with locally advanced or metastatic gastric, GEJ or pancreatic cancer.

It has enrolled patients who have progressed after undergoing all available standard therapy or for whom standard therapy has proven to be ineffective, intolerable or considered inappropriate.

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The next phase of Phanes’ study will investigate the therapeutic potential of PT886 as a combination therapy in gastric, GEJ and pancreatic cancers.

Phanes Therapeutics Founder and CEO Dr Ming Wang said: “Phanes is very excited about partnering with Merck on this novel approach to treat patients with gastric or gastroesophageal cancers.

“Claudin 18.2 is a clinically validated target and is overexpressed in these types of GI tumours.

“We believe the mechanisms of PT886 and pembrolizumab are complementary and the combination has the potential to improve outcomes for patients. 

“This collaboration marks another milestone for Phanes in fulfilling our vision of developing innovative approaches to treat cancer.”

PT886 is assembled using Phanes’ proprietary bispecific antibody platforms including PACbody and SPECpair.

Last year, it received orphan drug designation from the US FDA for the treatment of pancreatic cancer.

Based in California, Phanes is a clinical-stage biotechnology company that focuses on discovering and developing drugs for oncology.

The company’s three assets at clinical stage are PT199, PT886 and PT217.