Exclusive worldwide agreement to develop and commercialize Phase III cancer candidate vintafolide (EC145)

Posted: 16 April 2012 | | No comments yet

Vintafolide is currently being evaluated in a Phase III clinical trial…

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Merck, known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, (NYSE: MRK) and Endocyte Inc. (NASDAQ: ECYT), today announced that they have entered into an agreement to develop and commercialize Endocyte’s novel investigational therapeutic candidate vintafolide (EC145). Vintafolide is currently being evaluated in a Phase III clinical trial for platinum-resistant ovarian cancer, (PROCEED trial) and a Phase II trial for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC); both studies are also using Endocyte’s investigational companion diagnostic agent, etarfolatide (EC20).

“Vintafolide is a promising and innovative late-stage cancer drug candidate. In addition to pursuing the lead indication of platinum-resistant ovarian cancer, Merck plans to further evaluate its potential for treatment of multiple other cancer types,” said Peter S. Kim, executive vice president and president Merck Research Laboratories. “This agreement underscores our strategy of building a portfolio of oncology therapeutics that employ a companion diagnostic to facilitate selection of those patients most likely to respond to treatment.”

Under the agreement, Merck, through a subsidiary, will gain worldwide rights to develop and commercialize vintafolide. Endocyte will receive a $120 million upfront payment and is eligible for milestone payments of up to $880 million based on the successful achievement of development, regulatory and commercialization goals for vintafolide for a total of six cancer indications. In addition, if vintafolide receives regulatory approval, Endocyte will receive an equal share of the profit in the United States (U.S.) as well as a double digit percentage royalty on sales of the product in the rest of the world. Endocyte has retained the right to co-promote vintafolide with Merck in the U.S. and Merck has the exclusive right to promote vintafolide in the rest of world. Endocyte will be responsible for the majority of funding and completion of the PROCEED trial. Merck will be responsible for all other development activities and costs and have all decision rights for vintafolide. Endocyte remains responsible for the development, manufacture and commercialization worldwide of etarfolatide, a non-invasive companion diagnostic imaging agent that is used to identify folate receptor positive tumor cells.

“Following a rigorous selection process we believe Merck represents the ideal strategic partner to achieve the full potential of vintafolide, accelerating our development in numerous cancers,” said Ron Ellis, Endocyte’s president and chief executive officer. “The agreement also positions us well to build our own commercial infrastructure for vintafolide in the U.S. and for etarfolatide worldwide.”

Endocyte has completed three single arm studies of vintafolide in patients with advanced platinum resistant ovarian cancer, non-small cell lung cancer and solid tumors. In a randomized Phase II clinical trial (PRECEDENT) comparing vintafolide plus pegylated liposomal doxorubicin (PLD) versus PLD alone in women with platinum-resistant ovarian cancer, vintafolide demonstrated a statistically significant delay in disease progression or death in the overall population, with the largest improvement observed in patients with all tumors imaged as positive for folate receptor expression utilizing etarfolatide. Vintafolide in combination showed limited additional toxicity versus standard therapy with PLD alone. Common adverse events observed with this combination were neutropenia, fatigue, mouth sores, and redness/swelling/pain on the hands and feet.

In March 2012, Endocyte announced that the European Union had granted orphan drug status to vintafolide, and that the company planned to file a marketing authorization application in the third quarter of 2012.

Closing of the transaction is contingent upon obtaining Hart-Scott Rodino clearance from the Federal Trade Commission.

About Vintafolide (EC145)

Vintafolide is a proprietary, injectable, conjugate consisting of folate (vitamin B9) linked to a potent vinca alkaloid chemotherapy agent, desacetylvinblastine monohydrazide (DAVLBH). Vintafolide is designed to preferentially target the chemotherapy agent to fast growing cancer cells that actively take up folate via the folate receptor. The folate receptor is expressed in a wide variety of cancers including ovarian, NSCLC, breast, colon and kidney.

About Etarfolatide (EC20)

Etarfolatide is a folate-targeted molecular imaging agent that is being developed as a non-invasive method to identify tumors that over-express folate receptors. These tumors are the molecular target of Endocyte’s folate-targeted therapeutic compounds such as vintafolide. To date, etarfolatide has been administered to over 550 patients.

About the PROCEED Trial

The PROCEED trial is a Phase III randomized, double-blind clinical trial evaluating vintalofide in combination with PLD compared to PLD plus placebo for the treatment of folate-receptor positive platinum-resistant ovarian cancer. The primary endpoint of the trial is progression-free survival as measured by RECIST (Response Evaluation Criteria In Solid Tumor) criteria in patients with folate-receptor positive tumors assessed by etarfolatide imaging. Overall survival is a secondary endpoint. The trial anticipates recruiting more than 400 patients at approximately150 sites in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Asia. For further information regarding the PROCEED trial please visit

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