Merck and Eisai sign deal for renal cancer drug

Merck & Co., in Kenilworth, NJ, and Tokyo-based Eisai Co. Ltd. signed a collaboration to develop and sell Eisai’s renal cancer drug Lenvima (lenvatinib), a tyrosine kinase inhibitor.

The drug is already approved in many countries for advanced renal cancer and for locally recurrent or metastatic differentiated thyroid cancer.

The terms specify that Lenvima will be developed for several types of cancer as a standalone treatment and in combination with Merck’s anti–PD-1 immunotherapeutic agent, Keytruda (pembrolizumab).

In January, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted a breakthrough therapy designation for the combination of the two drugs. The data showed that Lenvima in combination with Keytruda led to tumor shrinkage in 63% of patients with advanced kidney cancer, Reuters reported.

A phase III study, sponsored by Eisai, currently is investigating separate combinations of Lenvima with Keytruda or Lenvima with everolimus versus chemotherapy alone for the treatment of renal cell carcinoma, Eisai noted.

Merck and Eisai will split the gross profits generated by Lenvima, the companies agreed in an announcement.

Merck will be entitled to half of all global Lenvima sales revenue, even for its thyroid cancer and combination drug uses, Reuters said.

Merck will also make one-time payments totaling 80 billion yen ($756 million) to Eisai along with development milestone payments, according to the Asia.nikkei.com site. The total may reach 611 billion yen (about $5.77 billion). The deal specifies that much of that amount would be paid before the end of 2021, and most would be contingent, depending on eventual sales.

Eisai shares surged 10% when the deal was reported. The deal reflects the structure of another oncology collaboration Merck entered with AstraZeneca in July 2017.