BioXcel Therapeutics has announced the addition of Merck KGaA and Pfizer to clinical collaboration with Nektar Therapeutics, to evaluate a novel triple combination therapy in pancreatic cancer.

The addition means the collaboration now includes Bavencio (avelumab), BXCL701 and NKTR-214 as a potential combination therapy for pancreatic cancer.

Under the terms of the collaboration, BioXcel will be responsible for initiating and managing the clinical program, with Merck KGaA and Pfizer supplying the checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy Bavencio. Nektar will supply the NKTR-214.

Bavencio is a human anti-programmed death ligand and a fully human monoclonal antibody developed by Merck KGaA and Pfizer as a pharmaceutical drug for use in immunotherapy, originally for the treatment of non-small-cell lung carcinoma.

“We believe it is essential to target multiple dimensions of the immune system in parallel to address the multi-faceted etiologies underlying cancer cell growth in difficult-to-treat tumors such as pancreatic cancer,” said Jonathan Zalevsky, chief scientific officer of Nektar Therapeutics.

He continued, “This experimental triple combination regimen of BXCL701, NKTR-214 and Bavencio is designed to leverage multiple mechanisms of action to better fight pancreatic cancer while potentially generating long-term cancer immunity. We’re pleased to be working with BioXcel as well as Merck KGaA and Pfizer on this program.”

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already granted accelerated approval for Bavencio for the treatment of adults and pediatric patients 12 years and older with metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma (mMCC) and patients with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma (mUC).