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BerGenBio presents new Phase II clinical data that bemcentinib in combination with low dose chemotherapy improves efficacy and duration of survival in elderly AML patients at ASCO 2019

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  • Phase II trial evaluating bemcentinib in combination with low-intensity chemotherapy in elderly AML patients unfit for intensive therapy shows promising efficacy
  • 6 out of 13 (46%) patients receiving LDAC combination achieved an Overall Response Rate (ORR) of 46%
  • 3 out of 12 evaluable patients receiving decitabine combination achieved an ORR of 25%
  • ORR significantly higher than previously observed/historical benchmarks in single-agent cytarabine

Chicago, USA, 03 June 2019 – BerGenBio ASA (OSE:BGBIO) today presents data showing significant efficacy in Phase II clinical trials (BGBC003, NCT02488408) evaluating bemcentinib, a first-in-class selective oral AXL inhibitor, in combination with low-dose cytarabine (LDAC) or decitabine as a potential new treatment regimen for acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) patients unable to tolerate intensive therapy. The data will be presented at the 2019 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), Chicago, Illinois (31 May - 4 June 2019).

In total, 33 patients were enrolled into the trial: 16 into the LDAC + bemcentinib group, of which 13 are evaluable for efficacy to date, and 17 into the decitabine + bemcentinib group, of which 12 are evaluable for efficacy to date.

Among the 13 evaluable patients in the LDAC + bemcentinib group, 6 responses have been reported; 4 patients achieved complete remission / complete remission with incomplete hematologic recovery (CR/CRi) and 2 patients’ partial remission (PR). This yields an overall response rate (ORR) of 46%, including 31% CR/CRi among elderly AML patients ( >70 years). Furthermore, one patient achieved durable stable disease for more than 3 months. The relapse free survival rate (RFS) for patients with CR/CRi is 6.2 months (0.7 to 9.6 months); data immature.

In the decitabine/bemcentinib group, of the 12 evaluable patients, 3 responses have been reported; 1 patient achieved CR/CRi and 2 patients PR. This yields an ORR of 25%. Furthermore, five patients had durable stable disease for more than 3 months. The RFS for patients with CR/CRi is 5 months; data immature.

The combination treatment of bemcentinib and LDAC or decitabine was overall well-tolerated; the most common adverse events ( >15% of patients) included anaemia, neutropenia and diarrhoea. No grade 5 TRAEs were reported and all events were reversible.

Professor Sonja Loges, attending physician and principal investigator, University Medical Centre Hamburg Eppendorf, Germany commented: “These early results are very encouraging, particularly as we have seen responses in a less fit AML patient population with comparatively poor prognosis [having not responded to first-line therapies], or with high risk cytogenetics. These data show that bemcentinib in combination with LDAC resulted in a significantly higher ORR than previously observed/historical benchmarks in single-agent cytarabine. These early results warrant further investigation of bemcentinib in a larger trial addressing AML patients unfit for intensive chemotherapy.”

Richard Godfrey, Chief Executive Officer of BerGenBio, commented: “A majority of AML patients are unable to tolerate intensive chemotherapy and have limited treatment options, particularly if established first-line therapies fail. These combination trials of bemcentinib with low-dose cytarabine and decitabine show promising results that the addition of our selective AXL inhibitor will improve the outcome of treatment with these much-used agents. Although these are early findings, we are encouraged by the emerging clinical data and focused on advancing our late stage development programme.”

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About AML and the BGBC003 trial 

Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is a rapidly progressing blood cancer. AML is the most common form of acute leukaemia in adults, where malignant AML blasts interfere with the normal functioning of the bone marrow leading to a multitude of complications like anaemia, infections and bleeding. AML is diagnosed in over 20,000 patients in the US annually and is rapidly lethal if left untreated. Successful treatment typically requires intensive therapy or bone marrow transplantation, and relapse and resistance are common. Consequently, there is an urgent need for effective novel therapies in relapsed/refractory patients, particularly those that are ineligible for intensive therapy or bone marrow transplant.

The BGBC003 trial is a phase Ib/II multi-centre open label study of bemcentinib in combination with cytarabine (part B2) and decitabine (part B3) in patients with AML who are unsuitable for intensive chemotherapy as a result of advanced age or existing-co-morbidities. Up to 28 patients will be enrolled at centres in the US, Norway, Germany and Italy.

For more information please access trial NCT02488408 at www.clinicaltrials.gov. 

About AXL 

AXL kinase is a cell membrane receptor and an essential mediator of the biological mechanisms underlying life-threatening diseases. In cancer, AXL suppresses the body’s immune response to tumours and drives cancer treatment failure across many indications. AXL inhibitors, therefore, have potential high value at the centre of cancer combination therapy, addressing significant unmet medical needs and multiple high-value market opportunities. Research has also shown that AXL mediates other aggressive diseases.

About Bemcentinib

Bemcentinib (formerly known as BGB324), 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. Bemcentinib targets and binds to the intracellular catalytic kinase domain of AXL receptor tyrosine kinase and inhibits its activity. Increase in AXL function has been linked to key mechanisms of drug resistance and immune escape by tumour cells, leading to aggressive metastatic cancers.  

About BerGenBio ASA 

BerGenBio is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on developing transformative drugs targeting AXL as a potential cornerstone of therapy for aggressive diseases, including immune-evasive, therapy resistant cancers. The company’s proprietary lead candidate, bemcentinib, is a potentially first-in-class selective AXL inhibitor in a broad phase II oncology clinical development programme focused on combination and single agent therapy in lung cancer and leukaemia. A first-in-class functional blocking AXL antibody (BGB149) and an AXL-ADC (ADCT-601) are undergoing phase I clinical testing. In parallel, BerGenBio is developing a companion diagnostic test to identify those patient populations most likely to benefit from bemcentinib: this is expected to facilitate more efficient registration trials supporting 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 


Richard Godfrey CEO, BerGenBio ASA
+47 917 86 304

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

International Media Relations

Mary-Jane Elliott, Chris Welsh, Jessica Hodgson, Nicholas Brown, Carina Jurs, Consilium Strategic Communications
+44 20 3709 5700

Media Relations in Norway

Jan Petter Stiff, Crux Advisers
+47 995 13 891

Forward looking statements

This announcement may contain forward-looking statements, which as such are not historical facts, but are based upon various assumptions, many of which are based, in turn, upon further assumptions. These assumptions are inherently subject to significant known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other important factors. Such risks, uncertainties, contingencies and other important factors could cause actual events to differ materially from the expectations expressed or implied in this announcement by such forward-looking statements.

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