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BerGenBio enters second stage of phase II trial with selective AXL inhibitor bemcentinib in combination with KEYTRUDA® in patients with advanced NSCLC

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Bergen, Norway, 5 October 2018– BerGenBio ASA (OSE: BGBIO) announces that the first patient has been dosed in the second stage of the phase II trial (BGBC008) evaluating the Company’s selective AXL inhibitor bemcentinib in combination with MSD’s anti-PD-1 therapy, KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab), in patients with previously treated advanced adenocarcinoma of the lung (non-small cell lung cancer, NSCLC) whose disease is progressing.

The trial was advanced into the second stage on the basis that the first stage met its clinical efficacy endpoint (as announced on 26 June 2018). Updated results from the first stage (n=24) were presented at the 19th Annual World Conference on Lung Cancer (WCLC; 25 September 2018)*. The Company reported an overall response rate (ORR) of 40% in patients who tested positive for AXL expression (4 out of 10 pts). Efficacy was also seen in PD-L1 negative patients (ORR of 27%, 3 out of 11 pts) for whom KEYTRUDA monotherapy is currently not indicated. Treatment with the bemcentinib/KEYTRUDA combination was well tolerated. 

The second stage will enrol a further 24 patients at sites in Norway, Spain, UK and the US, and aims to confirm the safety and clinical efficacy of the combination. Comprehensive exploratory studies will continue to evaluate biomarkers in tumour and blood indicative of AXL expression and immune modulation. Preliminary results from the trial are expected during 2019.

The BGBC008 trial (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT03184571) is being sponsored by BerGenBio. MSD, a tradename of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, New Jersey, USA, will continue to supply KEYTRUDA for use in the study under a collaboration agreement signed in March 2017.

Richard Godfrey, Chief Executive Officer of BerGenBio, commented: “We recently reported positive data from this phase II clinical trial at WCLC. Patients that were AXL positive reported a clinical response rate of 40%. Most notably, this included PD-L1 negative patients who do not benefit from KEYTRUDA monotherapy. These data strengthen our confidence in bemcentinib’s mode of action, as well as the value of AXL inhibition to enhance patient outcomes to KEYTRUDA immunotherapy. Additional combination data in NSCLC, including bemcentinib with targeted and chemotherapy, also presented at WCLC provide further proof supporting the concept that AXL is a key player in mediating resistance to therapy and immune evasion, and that bemcentinib has the potential to become a cornerstone therapy in this challenging indication. We look forward to reporting outcome and biomarker data at upcoming leading medical congresses.”

* James Lorens et al.  Ph II Study of Oral Selective AXL Inhibitor Bemcentinib (BGB324) in Combination with Pembrolizumab in Patients with Advanced NSCLC (abstract P2.04-27)

KEYTRUDA® is a registered trademark of Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, NJ, USA.


About NSCLC  

It is estimated that more than 230,000 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed in the US in 2018 and it is the leading cause of cancer deaths. 65% of NSCLCs are of adenocarcinoma pathology. Although various treatments exist for NSCLC, they are often curtailed by acquired resistance to therapy and immune evasion. Novel treatments overcoming these mechanisms in NSCLC are urgently required.  

About the BGBC008 trial

The BGBC008 trial is a phase II multi-centre open-label study of bemcentinib in combination with KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) in previously treated, immunotherapy naïve, patients with advanced adenocarcinoma of the lung, the most common form of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The objective of the trial is to determine the anti-tumour activity of this novel drug combination and responses will be correlated with biomarker status (including AXL kinase and PD-L1 expression). 

For more information please access trial NCT03184571 at www.clinicaltrials.gov.

About BerGenBio ASA 

BerGenBio is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on developing transformative drugs targeting AXL as a potential cornerstone of therapy for advanced and aggressive cancers. 

The company’s proprietary lead candidate, bemcentinib, is a potentially first-in-class selective AXL inhibitor in a broad phase II clinical development programme. Ongoing clinical trials are investigating bemcentinib in multiple solid and haematological tumours, in combination with current and emerging therapies (including immunotherapies, targeted therapies and chemotherapy), and as a single agent.

In parallel, BerGenBio is developing companion diagnostics test to identify patient populations most likely to benefit from bemcentinib; this is expected to facilitate more efficient registration trials and support a precision medicine-based commercialisation strategy.

BerGenBio is based in Bergen, Norway with a subsidiary in Oxford, UK. The company is listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange (ticker: BGBIO). www.bergenbio.com

About AXL

AXL kinase is a cell membrane receptor and an essential mediator of the biological mechanisms that drive aggressive and life-threatening diseases. In cancer, AXL drives tumour survival, treatment resistance and spread, as well as suppressing the body’s immune response to tumours. AXL expression has been established as a negative prognostic factor in many cancers. AXL inhibitors, therefore, have potential value at the centre of cancer combination therapy, addressing significant unmet medical needs and multiple high-value market opportunities.


Richard Godfrey, CEO, BerGenBio ASA
+47 917 86 304 

Rune Skeie, CFO, BerGenBio ASA
+47 917 86 513

Media Relations in Norway

Jan Petter Stiff, Crux Advisers
+47 995 13 891

International Media Relations

David Dible, Mark Swallow, Marine Perrier, Citigate Dewe Rogerson
+44 207 638 9571

This information is subject to the disclosure requirements pursuant to section 5-12 of the Norwegian Securities Trading Act.