Immutep updates on trial with MSD's Keytruda

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Investors have welcomed new data from Australian biopharmaceutical company Immutep (ASX:IMM) from a trial involving its lead product candidate eftilagimod alpha in combination with MSD's PBS-listed immunotherapy KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab).

Eftilagimod alpha, which is more commonly known as efti, is a soluble version of the immune checkpoint molecule LAG-3 that helps regulate the body's T-cell immune response.

It is being trialled (TACTI-002) in combination with KEYTRUDA for the treatment of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The trial is still recruiting.

Immutep chief scientific officer and chief medical officer, Dr Frederic Triebel, said the new data is positive for HNSCC and NSCLC patients. Dr Triebel said the data is an "early indication" that the combination could "more than double the proportion of HNSCC patients that respond to pembrolizumab monotherapy."

Investors welcomed the new data by boosting the company's share price by almost ten per cent.

“It is encouraging to see that patients continue to receive benefit from the combination treatment. We now expect progression-free survival to be more than 9 months for patients with 1st line NSCLC, significantly longer than the 5-6 months delivered by pembrolizumab monotherapy," said trial investigator, Dr Enriqueta Felip of Vall d’Hebron University Hospital in Barcelona.

"We are also seeing deeper responses in both arms with patients responding after a number of months of treatment. The improving data in both HNSCC and NSCLC patients supports the use of efti in combination with pembrolizumab as a promising new therapeutic option for patients.”

Immutep is also trialling efti in combination with Merck and Pfizer's PBS-listed immunotherapy BAVENCIO (avelumab) for the treatment of metastatic melanoma.