The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation for investigational agent bempegaldesleukin (NKTR-214) in combination with Bristol-Myers Squibb's Opdivo (nivolumab) for the treatment of patients with previously untreated unresectable or metastatic melanoma.

The decision is based on clinical data which were recently reported at the 2019 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting from the cohort of patients with metastatic melanoma that were treated with the doublet therapy in the ongoing PIVOT-02 Phase I/II clinical study.

Bempegaldesleukin, Nektar's lead immuno-oncology candidate, is an investigational CD122-preferential IL-2 pathway agonist designed to provide activation and proliferation of cancer-killing immune cells.

"In collaboration with our partner Bristol-Myers Squibb, we plan to work closely with FDA as we continue to advance our development program of bempegaldesleukin in combination with nivolumab in advanced melanoma patients," said Dr. Stephen Doberstein, SVP, research and development and chief R&D officer of Nektar Therapeutics.

He continued, ”Our teams are encouraged by the deepening of responses we observed in patients with previously untreated advanced melanoma who received the doublet therapy in our PIVOT-02 study. We look forward to continuing to provide updated results at a future medical meeting as the data mature further in this ongoing cohort of melanoma patients.”

FDA Breakthrough Therapy Designation is intended to expedite the development and review of medicines aimed at treating a serious or life-threatening disease where there is preliminary clinical evidence that the investigational therapy may offer substantial improvement over existing therapies on at least one clinically significant endpoint.