CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Feb. 20, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Torque, a clinical-stage immuno-oncology company developing first-in-class Deep Primed™ T Cell Therapeutics to direct immune power deep within the tumor microenvironment, announced today that it has entered into a clinical trial collaboration agreement with Merck (known as MSD outside of the U.S. and Canada). The collaboration will evaluate Torque's Deep IL-15 Primed T Cells (TRQ-1501) both as a single agent and in combination with KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab), Merck's anti-PD-1 therapy, in a Phase 1/2 study in multiple solid tumor indications.
"We are very excited about this clinical collaboration with Merck to evaluate the combination of KEYTRUDA with our Deep IL-15 Primed T cells," said Bart Henderson, Chief Executive Officer of Torque. "Torque's new class of cellular immunotherapy is designed to harness the full biology of natural T cells for treating multiple solid tumors, and we believe the combination with anti-PD-1 therapy will further enhance the function of these cells by protecting them against immunosuppression in the tumor microenvironment. This combination has the potential to improve treatment outcomes for patients with solid tumors that are relapsed or refractory to currently available treatments and broaden the applications of cellular immunotherapy."
The Phase 1/2 trial will evaluate the safety, tolerability, immune biomarkers, and overall response rates achieved with TRQ-1501 in combination with KEYTRUDA in two groups of patients:
- Patients with melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer, bladder cancer, renal cell carcinoma, and head and neck cancer who are relapsed or refractory to checkpoint inhibitor therapy (anti PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitor treatment)
- Patients with advanced or metastatic ovarian cancer or sarcoma who are relapsed or refractory to standard-of-care treatments
Torque will conduct the trial at multiple clinical sites in the U.S. and expects to commence the combination arm of the study with KEYTRUDA later this year.
KEYTRUDA® is a registered trademark of Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, NJ USA.
Torque is developing a new class of Deep-Primed™ cellular immunotherapy designed to overcome the key challenges limiting broad use of cellular therapy in oncology, including the capability to target tumors that express multiple heterogeneous antigens, the ability to overcome the immunosuppressive microenvironment that shuts down T cell function, and the need for outpatient treatment with a high margin of safety. Torque uses its Deep-Priming technology to develop multi-targeted, antigen-primed T cells that carry surface-anchored immune-stimulatory drugs to drive a full immune response within the tumor microenvironment against tumors with heterogenous antigens. TRQ-1501 is an investigational immune cell therapy produced from a patient's own T cells, which are primed to be active against multiple tumor-associated antigens and loaded with Deep IL-15 (a multimer of IL-15 cytokine) anchored to the T cells' surface.
About Torque's Deep-Primed™ Immune Cell Therapy Platform
Torque's Deep-Priming platform uses advanced cell process engineering to:
- prime and activate T cells to target multiple tumor antigens and
- tether immune-stimulatory drugs to the surface of these multi-target T cells to direct immune activation in the tumor microenvironment
- using a proprietary technology platform, without genetic engineering, for a high margin of safety.
Deep-Primed T cells both target multiple tumor antigens and pharmacologically activate an immune response with anchored cytokines. This process does not require genetic engineering of the T cells and so preserves the natural T cell receptor for delivering a regulated immune response, with the potential for a high margin of safety. In addition to antigen priming, immunomodulators are tethered to the surface of Deep-Primed T cells—initially IL-15 and IL-12 cytokines, and TLR agonists—that activate both innate and adaptive immunity. Administering these immunomodulators systemically to a patient can cause lethal toxicity by activating immune cells throughout the body. By loading precise doses of cytokines onto the surface of T cells, Deep Priming focuses the immune response to target the tumor, without systemic exposure.
In hematologic cancers, this new class of immune cell therapeutics has the potential to improve on the initial success of single-target CAR T therapeutics with expanded efficacy and also move cell therapy treatment out of the hospital with a high margin of safety. For solid tumors, Deep-Primed T cells have the potential to enable efficacy against tumors with heterogeneous antigens protected by hostile microenvironments, which are not readily addressable with the first generation of immune cell therapies.
About Torque (www.torquetx.com)
Torque is a clinical-stage immuno-oncology company developing Deep Primed™ T cell therapeutics to direct immune power deep within the tumor microenvironment. Torque's lead product candidate—TRQ-1501 (Deep IL-15 primed T cells)—is in Phase 1/2 clinical trials for solid tumors and hematologic cancers. The company is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.