Pfizer has signed a deal which will see Debiopharm take on late-stage development of a melanoma drug that the New York giant halted almost two years ago.

The Switzerland-headquartered firm is to conduct a Phase III trial of tremelimumab, also known as CP675,206, a fully human anti-CTLA4 monoclonal antibody for the treatment of patients with unresectable, Stage IV melanoma. A biomarker will be used to select patients considered likely to respond to the compound.

In April 2008, Pfizer discontinued a late-stage trial of tremelimumab after a review of interim data showed that the drug would not demonstrate superiority to standard chemotherapy. However, the company carried on looking at the drug and analysis from the terminated study has thrown up the biomarker which will be used in patient selection for the upcoming trial.

If the Phase III trials go to plan, Pfizer will be responsible for commercialisation of tremelimumab. The continuation of the clinical development of the compound "is a demonstration of our commitment to personalised medicine for cancer patients", said Garry Nicholson, president of Pfizer's oncology business unit.

He added that Debiopharm is “a successful company which has achieved impressive results on a global scale”, and the pact is “an opportunity to leverage the combined expertise of both companies in this innovative endeavour”. Pfizer, which has more than 25 biologics and small molecules in clinical development for cancer, did not disclose financial terms of the agreement.