Merck, Pfizer and Syndax have formed a clinical trials pact to evaluate a combination of their cancer drugs in patients with heavily pre-treated, recurrent ovarian cancer. 

The companies will assess Merck and Pfizer’s avelumab, an investigational fully human anti-PD-L1 IgG1 monoclonal antibody, in combination with Syndax’ entinostat, an investigational oral small molecule that targets immune regulatory cells. 

Data has shown that entinostat can boost the effect of checkpoint inhibitor therapies, resulting in a greater immuno-response to tumour cells, prompting the companies to test whether the avelumab/entinostat combo is more powerful than either component alone.

Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but it was revealed that Syndax will be responsible for conducting the Phase Ib/II clinical trial.

“Combination therapy is the next frontier in immuno-oncology and a key strategy for the alliance,” said Luciano Rossetti, head of Global Research & Development at Merck’s biopharma unit. 

“Avelumab as a monotherapy has already shown promising early activity in ovarian cancer in a Phase Ib trial, and through our ongoing research and this collaboration with Syndax, we will hopefully be able to make a real difference to women fighting this complex cancer”.

The Merck-Pfizer Alliance is currently assessing avelumab across a broad range of tumour types.