Firms will each carry out Phase I studies with MEK, PI3K, and PI3K/mTOR inhibitors.

Merck KGaA and sanofi-aventis’ U.S. operation are partnering to investigate the anticancer potential of a combination of Merck Serono’s MEK inhibitor MSC1936369B (also known as AS703026) with sanofi-aventis’ PI3K/mTOR inhibitor SAR245409 (also known as XL765) and with its class I PI3K inhibitor SAR245408 (XL147). Each firm will be responsible for carrying out a Phase I trial.

Sanofi-aventis will receive an R&D licence to MSC1936369B to assess the safety and initial clinical activity of the drug in combination with its PI3K inhbitor SAR245408. Merck Serono will have an equivalent R&D licence to carry out initial clinical evaluation of SAR245409 in combination with with its own MSC1936369B.

“In the spirit of personalizing and stratifying cancer care, it is a logical step to combine new exciting molecules across pipelines and companies early on, to explore combined activity against cancer pathways,” comments Wolfgang Wein, M.D., evp for oncology at Merck Serono. “We expect strong synergy between both oncology units in driving the projects forward.”

Merck Serono is separately taking MSC1936369B through early clinical development as monotherapy and in combination with standard of care. First results from an ongoing Phase I trial in advanced solid tumors have demonstrated initial signs of antitumor activity, the firm notes.

SAR245408 is a class I PI3K inhibitor, while SAR245409 is a dual inhibitor of PI3K and mTOR. Sanofi-aventis says early clinical development of both drugs as monotherapy and in combination with standard of care have shown the compounds effectively block downstream signaling.

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