Merck and Eisai Provide Update on Phase 3 LEAP-002 Trial Evaluating KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) Plus LENVIMA® (lenvatinib) Versus LENVIMA Monotherapy in Patients With Unresectable Hepatocellular Carcinoma

RAHWAY, NJ & NUTLEY, NJ, USA I August 03, 2022 I Merck (NYSE: MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, and Eisai today announced that the Phase 3 LEAP-002 trial investigating KEYTRUDA, Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy, plus LENVIMA, the orally available multiple receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor discovered by Eisai, versus LENVIMA monotherapy did not meet its dual primary endpoints of overall survival (OS) and progression-free survival (PFS) as a first-line treatment for patients with unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma (uHCC). There were trends toward improvement in OS and PFS for patients who received KEYTRUDA plus LENVIMA versus LENVIMA monotherapy; however, these results did not meet statistical significance per the pre-specified statistical plan. The median OS of the LENVIMA monotherapy arm in LEAP-002 was longer than that observed in previously reported clinical trials evaluating LENVIMA monotherapy in uHCC. The safety profile of KEYTRUDA plus LENVIMA was consistent with previously reported data on the combination. Merck and Eisai plan to present these data at an upcoming medical conference.

“Our joint clinical development program for KEYTRUDA plus LENVIMA is designed to address unmet needs for some of the most challenging-to-treat types of cancer, like hepatocellular carcinoma,” said Dr. Gregory Lubiniecki, Vice President, Global Clinical Developement, Merck Research Laboratories. “We remain confident in the potential of this combination based on the body of evidence we’ve seen to date and will continue to investigate its role across multiple types of cancer.”

“Aiming for further improvement in the treatment of patients with unresectable HCC, we selected LENVIMA monotherapy, a standard of care option, as the control arm of the LEAP-002 trial,” said Corina Dutcus, M.D., Senior Vice President, Clinical Research, Oncology at Eisai Inc. “While results evaluating the combination are not what we had hoped for, we will continue to contribute to the care of patients with unresectable HCC by applying valuable knowledge from the LEAP-002 trial.”

LENVIMA monotherapy is approved for the first-line treatment of patients with uHCC in the U.S., Europe, and China, and for patients with uHCC in Japan. The approval of LENVIMA was based on results of the Phase 3 REFLECT trial which evaluated the efficacy and safety of LENVIMA versus sorafenib for the first-line treatment of patients with uHCC.

In the U.S., KEYTRUDA plus LENVIMA is approved for the treatment of patients with advanced endometrial carcinoma that is not microsatellite instability-high or mismatch repair deficient, who have disease progression following prior systemic therapy in any setting and are not candidates for curative surgery or radiation and for adult patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma (RCC) in the first-line setting. In Europe, KEYTRUDA plus LENVIMA (marketed as KISPLYX® for RCC in the EU) is approved for adult patients with advanced or recurrent endometrial carcinoma who have disease progression on or following prior treatment with a platinum containing therapy in any setting and are not candidates for curative surgery or radiation and for adults with advanced RCC in the first-line setting. The KEYTRUDA plus LENVIMA combination is also approved in Japan for patients with radically unresectable or metastatic RCC and patients with unresectable, advanced or recurrent endometrial carcinoma that progressed after cancer chemotherapy. Results from the LEAP-002 trial do not affect the current approved indications for the KEYTRUDA plus LENVIMA combination.

Merck and Eisai are studying the KEYTRUDA plus LENVIMA combination through the LEAP (LEnvatinib And Pembrolizumab) clinical program in more than 10 different tumor types (endometrial carcinoma, hepatocellular carcinoma, melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer, renal cell carcinoma, head and neck cancer, biliary tract cancer, colorectal cancer, gastric cancer, esophageal cancer, glioblastoma and pancreatic cancer) across more than 15 clinical trials.

About LEAP-002

LEAP-002 is a multicenter, randomized, double-blinded, active-controlled Phase 3 trial (ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT03713593) evaluating KEYTRUDA plus LENVIMA versus LENVIMA monotherapy for the first-line treatment of adult patients with uHCC. The dual primary endpoints are PFS, as assessed by blinded independent central review (BICR) per Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors Version (RECIST) v1.1 (RECIST v1.1 has been modified for this study to follow a maximum of 10 target lesions in total and a maximum of 5 target lesions per organ), and OS. The secondary endpoints include objective response rate (ORR), as assessed by BICR per RECIST v1.1, and duration of response (DOR). The study enrolled 794 patients who were randomized 1:1 to receive:

  • KEYTRUDA (200 mg intravenously [IV] on Day 1 of each three-week cycle) plus LENVIMA (12 mg orally once daily [for patients with screening body weight of at least 60 kg] or 8 mg orally once daily [for patients with screening body weight less than 60 kg]); or
  • LENVIMA (12 mg orally once daily [for patients with screening body weight of at least 60 kg] or 8 mg orally once daily [for patients with screening body weight less than 60 kg]) plus saline placebo (IV administered on Day 1 of each three-week cycle).

LENVIMA was administered until progressive disease or unacceptable toxicity. KEYTRUDA/placebo was administered for up to 35cycles (approximately two years).

About hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)

Hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common type of primary liver cancer and the most rapidly increasing cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Hepatocellular carcinoma accounts for approximately 90% of primary liver cancers. It is estimated there were more than 905,000 new cases of liver cancer and more than 830,000 deaths from the disease globally in 2020, making it the sixth most frequently diagnosed cancer worldwide and one of the leading causes of cancer deaths around the world. In the United States, it is estimated there will be over 41,000 new cases of liver cancer and over 30,000 deaths from this disease in 2022. Risk factors for liver cancer include gender, ethnicity, chronic viral hepatitis (Hep-B or Hep-C) infection, cirrhosis, alcohol use and metabolic syndrome. Hepatocellular carcinoma, which is often diagnosed at an advanced stage, has a five-year survival rate of approximately 20% in the U.S.

About KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) injection, 100 mg

KEYTRUDA is an anti-programmed death receptor-1 (PD-1) therapy that works by increasing the ability of the body’s immune system to help detect and fight tumor cells. KEYTRUDA is a humanized monoclonal antibody that blocks the interaction between PD-1 and its ligands, PD-L1 and PD-L2, thereby activating T lymphocytes which may affect both tumor cells and healthy cells.

Merck has the industry’s largest immuno-oncology clinical research program. There are currently more than 1,600 trials studying KEYTRUDA across a wide variety of cancers and treatment settings. The KEYTRUDA clinical program seeks to understand the role of KEYTRUDA across cancers and the factors that may predict a patient's likelihood of benefitting from treatment with KEYTRUDA, including exploring several different biomarkers.

Selected KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) Indications in the U.S.

Hepatocellular Carcinoma

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) who have been previously treated with sorafenib. This indication is approved under accelerated approval based on tumor response rate and durability of response. Continued approval for this indication may be contingent upon verification and description of clinical benefit in the confirmatory trials.

Melanoma

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma.

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the adjuvant treatment of adult and pediatric (12 years and older) patients with stage IIB, IIC, or III melanoma following complete resection.

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

KEYTRUDA, in combination with pemetrexed and platinum chemotherapy, is indicated for the first-line treatment of patients with metastatic nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), with no EGFR or ALK genomic tumor aberrations.

KEYTRUDA, in combination with carboplatin and either paclitaxel or paclitaxel protein-bound, is indicated for the first-line treatment of patients with metastatic squamous NSCLC.

KEYTRUDA, as a single agent, is indicated for the first-line treatment of patients with NSCLC expressing PD-L1 [tumor proportion score (TPS) ≥1%] as determined by an FDA-approved test, with no EGFR or ALK genomic tumor aberrations, and is:

  • stage III where patients are not candidates for surgical resection or definitive chemoradiation, or
  • metastatic.

KEYTRUDA, as a single agent, is indicated for the treatment of patients with metastatic NSCLC whose tumors express PD-L1 (TPS ≥1%) as determined by an FDA-approved test, with disease progression on or after platinum-containing chemotherapy. Patients with EGFR or ALK genomic tumor aberrations should have disease progression on FDA-approved therapy for these aberrations prior to receiving KEYTRUDA.

Head and Neck Squamous Cell Cancer

KEYTRUDA, in combination with platinum and fluorouracil (FU), is indicated for the first-line treatment of patients with metastatic or with unresectable, recurrent head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC).

KEYTRUDA, as a single agent, is indicated for the first-line treatment of patients with metastatic or with unresectable, recurrent HNSCC whose tumors express PD-L1 [Combined Positive Score (CPS) ≥1] as determined by an FDA-approved test.

KEYTRUDA, as a single agent, is indicated for the treatment of patients with recurrent or metastatic HNSCC with disease progression on or after platinum-containing chemotherapy.

Classical Hodgkin Lymphoma

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of adult patients with relapsed or refractory classical Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL).

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of pediatric patients with refractory cHL, or cHL that has relapsed after 2 or more lines of therapy.

Primary Mediastinal Large B-Cell Lymphoma

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of adult and pediatric patients with refractory primary mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma (PMBCL), or who have relapsed after 2 or more prior lines of therapy.

KEYTRUDA is not recommended for treatment of patients with PMBCL who require urgent cytoreductive therapy.

Urothelial Carcinoma

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma (mUC):

  • who are not eligible for any platinum-containing chemotherapy, or
  • who have disease progression during or following platinum-containing chemotherapy or within 12 months of neoadjuvant or adjuvant treatment with platinum-containing chemotherapy.

Non-muscle Invasive Bladder Cancer

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with Bacillus Calmette-Guerin-unresponsive, high-risk, non-muscle invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC) with carcinoma in situ with or without papillary tumors who are ineligible for or have elected not to undergo cystectomy.

Microsatellite Instability-High or Mismatch Repair Deficient Cancer

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of adult and pediatric patients with unresectable or metastatic microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H) or mismatch repair deficient (dMMR) solid tumors that have progressed following prior treatment and who have no satisfactory alternative treatment options.

This indication is approved under accelerated approval based on tumor response rate and durability of response. Continued approval for this indication may be contingent upon verification and description of clinical benefit in the confirmatory trials. The safety and effectiveness of KEYTRUDA in pediatric patients with MSI-H central nervous system cancers have not been established.

Microsatellite Instability-High or Mismatch Repair Deficient Colorectal Cancer

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with unresectable or metastatic MSI-H or dMMR colorectal cancer (CRC).

Gastric Cancer

KEYTRUDA, in combination with trastuzumab, fluoropyrimidine- and platinum-containing chemotherapy, is indicated for the first-line treatment of patients with locally advanced unresectable or metastatic HER2-positive gastric or gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) adenocarcinoma.

This indication is approved under accelerated approval based on tumor response rate and durability of response. Continued approval for this indication may be contingent upon verification and description of clinical benefit in the confirmatory trials.

Esophageal Cancer

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with locally advanced or metastatic esophageal or gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) (tumors with epicenter 1 to 5 centimeters above the GEJ) carcinoma that is not amenable to surgical resection or definitive chemoradiation either:

  • in combination with platinum- and fluoropyrimidine-based chemotherapy, or
  • as a single agent after one or more prior lines of systemic therapy for patients with tumors of squamous cell histology that express PD-L1 (CPS ≥10) as determined by an FDA-approved test.

Cervical Cancer

KEYTRUDA, in combination with chemotherapy, with or without bevacizumab, is indicated for the treatment of patients with persistent, recurrent, or metastatic cervical cancer whose tumors express PD-L1 (CPS ≥1) as determined by an FDA-approved test.

KEYTRUDA, as a single agent, is indicated for the treatment of patients with recurrent or metastatic cervical cancer with disease progression on or after chemotherapy whose tumors express PD-L1 (CPS ≥1) as determined by an FDA-approved test.

Merkel Cell Carcinoma

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of adult and pediatric patients with recurrent locally advanced or metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC). This indication is approved under accelerated approval based on tumor response rate and durability of response. Continued approval for this indication may be contingent upon verification and description of clinical benefit in the confirmatory trials.

Renal Cell Carcinoma

KEYTRUDA, in combination with axitinib, is indicated for the first-line treatment of adult patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma (RCC).

KEYTRUDA, in combination with LENVIMA, is indicated for the first-line treatment of adult patients with advanced RCC.

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the adjuvant treatment of patients with RCC at intermediate-high or high risk of recurrence following nephrectomy, or following nephrectomy and resection of metastatic lesions.

Endometrial Carcinoma

KEYTRUDA, in combination with LENVIMA, is indicated for the treatment of patients with advanced endometrial carcinoma that is not MSI-H or dMMR, who have disease progression following prior systemic therapy in any setting and are not candidates for curative surgery or radiation.

KEYTRUDA, as a single agent, is indicated for the treatment of patients with advanced endometrial carcinoma that is MSI-H or dMMR, as determined by an FDA-approved test, who have disease progression following prior systemic therapy in any setting and are not candidates for curative surgery or radiation.

Tumor Mutational Burden-High Cancer

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of adult and pediatric patients with unresectable or metastatic tumor mutational burden-high (TMB-H) [≥10 mutations/megabase] solid tumors, as determined by an FDA-approved test, that have progressed following prior treatment and who have no satisfactory alternative treatment options. This indication is approved under accelerated approval based on tumor response rate and durability of response. Continued approval for this indication may be contingent upon verification and description of clinical benefit in the confirmatory trials. The safety and effectiveness of KEYTRUDA in pediatric patients with TMB-H central nervous system cancers have not been established.

Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with recurrent or metastatic cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (cSCC) or locally advanced cSCC that is not curable by surgery or radiation.

Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

KEYTRUDA is indicated for the treatment of patients with high-risk early-stage triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) in combination with chemotherapy as neoadjuvant treatment, and then continued as a single agent as adjuvant treatment after surgery.

KEYTRUDA, in combination with chemotherapy, is indicated for the treatment of patients with locally recurrent unresectable or metastatic TNBC whose tumors express PD-L1 (CPS ≥10) as determined by an FDA-approved test.

About LENVIMA® (lenvatinib); available as 10 mg and 4 mg capsules

LENVIMA, discovered and developed by Eisai, is a multiple receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor that inhibits the kinase activities of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) receptors VEGFR1 (FLT1), VEGFR2 (KDR), and VEGFR3 (FLT4). LENVIMA inhibits other kinases that have been implicated in pathogenic angiogenesis, tumor growth, and cancer progression in addition to their normal cellular functions, including fibroblast growth factor (FGF) receptors FGFR1-4, the platelet derived growth factor receptor alpha (PDGFRα), KIT, and RET. Lenvatinib also exhibited antiproliferative activity in hepatocellular carcinoma cell lines dependent on activated FGFR signaling with a concurrent inhibition of FGF-receptor substrate 2α (FRS2α) phosphorylation. The combination of LENVIMA and everolimus showed increased anti-angiogenic and anti-tumor activity as demonstrated by decreased human endothelial cell proliferation, tube formation, and VEGF signaling in vitro and tumor volume in mouse xenograft models of human renal cell cancer greater than each drug alone. In syngeneic mouse tumor models, the combination of lenvatinib with an anti-PD-1 monoclonal antibody decreased tumor-associated macrophages, increased activated cytotoxic T cells, and demonstrated greater antitumor activity compared to either treatment alone.

LENVIMA® (lenvatinib) Indications in the U.S.

  • For the treatment of patients with locally recurrent or metastatic, progressive, radioactive iodine-refractory differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC)
  • In combination with KEYTRUDA, for the first-line treatment of adult patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma (RCC)
  • In combination with everolimus, for the treatment of adult patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma (RCC) following one prior anti-angiogenic therapy
  • For the first-line treatment of patients with unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)
  • In combination with KEYTRUDA, for the treatment of patients with advanced endometrial carcinoma (EC) that is not microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H) or mismatch repair deficient (dMMR), who have disease progression following prior systemic therapy in any setting and are not candidates for curative surgery or radiation.

Please see Prescribing Information for LENVIMA (lenvatinib) at http://www.lenvima.com/pdfs/prescribing-information.pdf.

About the Merck and Eisai strategic collaboration

In March 2018, Eisai and Merck, known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, through an affiliate, entered into a strategic collaboration for the worldwide co-development and co-commercialization of LENVIMA. Under the agreement, the companies will jointly develop, manufacture and commercialize LENVIMA, both as monotherapy and in combination with Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy KEYTRUDA.

In addition to ongoing clinical studies evaluating the KEYTRUDA plus LENVIMA combination across several different tumor types, the companies have jointly initiated new clinical studies through the LEAP (LEnvatinib And Pembrolizumab) clinical program and are evaluating the combination in more than 10 different tumor types across more than 15 clinical trials.

Merck’s focus on cancer

Our goal is to translate breakthrough science into innovative oncology medicines to help people with cancer worldwide. At Merck, the potential to bring new hope to people with cancer drives our purpose and supporting accessibility to our cancer medicines is our commitment. As part of our focus on cancer, Merck is committed to exploring the potential of immuno-oncology with one of the largest development programs in the industry across more than 30 tumor types. We also continue to strengthen our portfolio through strategic acquisitions and are prioritizing the development of several promising oncology candidates with the potential to improve the treatment of advanced cancers. For more information about our oncology clinical trials, visit www.merck.com/clinicaltrials.

About Merck

At Merck, known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada, we are unified around our purpose: We use the power of leading-edge science to save and improve lives around the world. For more than 130 years, we have brought hope to humanity through the development of important medicines and vaccines. We aspire to be the premier research-intensive biopharmaceutical company in the world – and today, we are at the forefront of research to deliver innovative health solutions that advance the prevention and treatment of diseases in people and animals. We foster a diverse and inclusive global workforce and operate responsibly every day to enable a safe, sustainable and healthy future for all people and communities. For more information, visit www.merck.com and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.

Eisai’s focus on cancer

Eisai focuses on the development of anticancer drugs, targeting the tumor microenvironment (with experience and knowledge from existing in-house discovered compounds) and the driver gene mutation and aberrant splicing (leveraging RNA Splicing Platform) as areas (Ricchi) where real patient needs are still unmet, and where Eisai can aim to become a frontrunner in oncology. Eisai aspires to discover innovative new drugs with new targets and mechanisms of action from these Ricchi, with the aim of contributing to the cure of cancers.

About Eisai

Eisai’s Corporate Philosophy is “to give first thought to patients and people in the daily living domain, and to increase the benefits that health care provides.” Under this Concept [also known as our human health care (hhc) Concept], we aim to effectively achieve social good in the form of relieving anxiety over health and reducing health disparities. With a global network of R&D facilities, manufacturing sites and marketing subsidiaries, we strive to create and deliver innovative products to target diseases with high unmet medical needs, with a particular focus in our strategic areas of Neurology and Oncology.

In addition, our continued commitment to the elimination of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), which is a target (3.3) of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is demonstrated by our work on various activities together with global partners.

For more information about Eisai, please visit www.eisai.com (for global headquarters: Eisai Co., Ltd.), us.eisai.com (for U.S. headquarters: Eisai, Inc.) or www.eisai.eu (for Europe, Middle East, Africa, Russia, Australia, and New Zealand headquarters: Eisai Europe Ltd.), and connect with us on Twitter (U.S. and global) and LinkedIn (for U.S. and EMEA).

SOURCE: Merck

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