Merck’s drug targeting the AKT pathway will be coupled with AstraZeneca’s compound that affects the MEK pathway.

Merck & Co. and AstraZeneca will be collaborating to determine the efficacy of a joint regimen of compounds from each company in treating cancer in a Phase I trial. The agreement follows data suggesting that MK-2206 from Merck and AZD6244 from AztraZeneca may be more effective if dosed together.

Development costs for the Phase I trial will be borne jointly, and both companies will share co-administration expenses for the trial. After the Phase I study each firm has the option of continuing development either under the collaboration or on its own.

AZD6244 has been shown to affect signals regulating cancer cell growth and survival in the MEK pathway and is currently in Phase II trials as a stand-alone therapy. MK-2206 has also completed Phase I trials as a stand-alone treatment. Merck reports that it affects the AKT pathway, stifling cancer cell growth and survival.ADNFCR-2184-ID-19195796-ADNFCR

“There is strong scientific rationale to suggest that the potential benefit to cancer patients of this combination may far exceed the sum of the parts,” says Gary Gilliland, Merck Research Laboratories svp and oncology franchise head. “In order to harness the true potential of the combined administration of the compounds, AstraZeneca and Merck have established a pioneering, early-stage collaboration based on our mutual determination to develop impactful therapies that improve patients’ lives.”

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AstraZeneca and Singapore Institutions Ally to Develop Drugs for Liver Cancer (Aug. 15, 2008)
Dana-Farber Allies With Merck & Co. on Cancer Drug R&D (Feb. 12, 2008)

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