Merck has entered a global strategic oncology collaboration to jointly develop and commercialise AstraZeneca’s lynparza (olaparib) for the treatment of multiple cancer types.

Lynparza is a new, first-in-class oral poly adenosine diphosphate (ADP)-ribose polymerase (PARP) inhibitor that can exploit tumour DNA damage response (DDR) pathway deficiencies to preferentially kill cancer cells.

As part of the collaboration, Merck will pay AstraZeneca up to $8.5bn in total consideration, including $1.6bn upfront, $750m for certain licence options and up to $6.15bn contingent upon successful attainment of future regulatory and sales milestones.

Approximately 14 indications of lynparza are currently being developed across a wide range of tumour types, including breast, prostate and pancreatic cancers.

In addition, lynparza is approved for BRCA-mutated ovarian cancer in multiple lines of treatment.

Under the deal, the companies will co-develop and co-commercialise Lynparza, both as monotherapy and in combination with other potential medicines.

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"This is a truly exciting step and we are pleased to work with Merck, a company that shares our passion for science to deliver new medicines for cancer patients."

Independently, the two companies will develop and market the treatment in combination with their respective PD-L1 and PD-1 medicines, Imfinzi (durvalumab) and Keytruda (pembrolizumab).

The firms will also jointly develop and market AstraZeneca’s selumetinib, an oral, potent, selective inhibitor of MEK, part of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway.

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said: “Our strategic collaboration builds on scientific evidence that PARP and MEK inhibitors can be combined with PD-L1/PD-1 inhibitors for a range of tumours.

“By bringing together the expertise of two leading oncology innovators, we will accelerate Lynparza’s potential to become the preferred backbone of many immuno-oncology combination therapies as the world’s first and leading PARP inhibitor.

“This is a truly exciting step and we are pleased to work with Merck, a company that shares our passion for science to deliver new medicines for cancer patients.”

Selumetinib is currently being developed for multiple indications, including thyroid cancer.