GSK begins clinical trials of pancreatic cancer combination

GlaxoSmithKline plans to carry out clinical trials on its pancreatic drug hopeful, GSK547, following promising results when treating mice and laboratory-grown tumour cells.

The experimental drug was found to be effective when paired with Merck & Co’s checkpoint inhibitor Keytruda, which works by blocking the proteins that prevent the patient’s immune system from killing cancer cells.

Mice were given GSK547 plus the PD1 checkpoint inhibitor and an Inducible T-cell COStimulator (ICOS) activator that helps prime the immune system’s T cells to identify cancer cells and target them for attack.

The mice who had pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma and who were given the GSK547 combination therapy, survived for 50 days, whereas animals with the same cancer who were given the checkpoint inhibitors alone lived for half that time.

GlaxoSmithKline is due to launch a phase 1 clinical trial this month using GSK095, which is a new version of the drug meant for safe testing in humans.

Professor George Miller of NYU Langone Health and Perlmutter, said: “Our results support the potential effectiveness of blocking a signalling pathway in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma in a way that potently complements existing treatments.

“If clinical trials prove successful, this could be really promising for many people with end-stage disease.”

Also, the researchers found that tests on human pancreatic cells in the laboratory that were treated with GSK547 doubled killer T cell activation and led to a five-fold decrease in the cells that suppress the immune system.

The move signals a renewed interest in oncology on GlaxoSmithKline’s part. The company sold its oncology portfolio to Novartis in a £16 billion deal that was sealed in 2015. In the same transaction, GSK took over the bulk of the Novartis vaccine business.

The UK-based company is said to be waiting for the next generation of its prescription medicines to reach to market.

Earlier this year, GSK announced it was buying out Novartis’s 36.5% stake in the over-the-counter joint venture the two companies formed in 2015. This deal includes products such as Sensodyne toothpaste, Panadol headache tablets and Nicotinell patches.



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