Country for PR: Hong Kong
Contributor: PR Newswire Asia (Hong Kong)
Tuesday, April 16 2019 - 09:15
Tessa Therapeutics Announces Collaboration with MSD Investigating the Combination of KEYTRUDA (R) (pembrolizumab) and Virus-Specific T Cell Therapy Targeting Human Papillomavirus in Cervical Cancer
SINGAPORE, April 16, 2019 /PRNewswire-AsiaNet/ --

The collaboration will evaluate the safety and efficacy of Tessa's armored 
human papillomavirus-specific T cell (HPVST) therapy combined with MSD's 
KEYTRUDA (R) (pembrolizumab) to address the limited number of effective 
treatment options for metastatic or recurrent cervical cancer

Tessa Therapeutics, a clinical-stage immunotherapy company focused on 
autologous and off-the-shelf, allogeneic therapies targeting solid tumors, 
today announced that it has entered into an agreement with MSD (tradename of 
Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, N.J., USA), through a subsidiary, to evaluate 
Tessa's armored human papillomavirus-specific T cell (HPVST) therapy, or TT12, 
in combination with KEYTRUDA (R) (pembrolizumab), MSD's anti-PD-1 (programmed 
death receptor-1) therapy, in patients with recurrent or metastatic HPV 16 and 
18-positive cervical cancer. 

Under the agreement, Tessa will conduct a multi-center Phase 1b/2 trial to 
evaluate the safety and efficacy of the combination. The trial is planned for 
initiation in the United States, Singapore and South Korea. 

"We are very excited to work with MSD to evaluate the potential of KEYTRUDA (R) 
in combination with Tessa's VST therapy for cervical cancer," said Mr. Andrew 
Khoo, Tessa Therapeutics CEO and Co-Founder.  "Cervical cancer is a major cause 
of death in women, especially in some of the most vulnerable parts of the 
world. Furthermore, the current prognosis and treatment options for patients 
with metastatic cervical cancer are poor. We look forward to developing this 
novel combination further, which has the potential to bring more effective 
treatment options for such patients." 

Tessa's TT12 is an autologous cell therapy product composed of HPVSTs that have 
been trained to target HPV 16/18 antigens and genetically modified with a decoy 
TGF-â receptor to overcome the suppressive tumor microenvironment. The safety 
and optimal dose selection of armored HPVSTs in combination with another 
anti-PD-1 antibody is currently being evaluated in a separate, ongoing 
investigator-sponsored Phase 1 trial( in the United 
States, in patients with relapsed HPV-associated cancers. Preliminary results 
from this trial show that armored HPVSTs and its combination with anti-PD-1 are 
well-tolerated, have minimal toxicities and early signs of efficacy. 

Dr. Ivan D. Horak, M.D., Tessa Therapeutics President of Research and 
Development said, "Tessa's TT12 Phase 1 study has shown encouraging results, 
supporting the effectiveness of armoured HPVSTs in targeting HPV-positive 
tumors and the addition of anti-PD-1 may remove potential immune inhibition 
that can hamper the tumor-killing activity of the HPVSTs. Bringing this therapy 
into a Phase 1b/2 trial and the expansion of clinical sites into Asia reflect 
our desire to bring novel therapies to more cancer patients globally, as well 
as our belief in the therapy's potential to improve the clinical outcomes of 
patients with advanced stages of HPV-positive tumors."

KEYTRUDA (R) is a registered trademark of Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., a 
subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, N.J., USA. 

About Cervical Cancer and Armored HPVST Immunotherapy 

According to the World Health Organization, cervical cancer is the fourth most 
common cancer in women worldwide and second most common in less developed 
regions. Cervical cancer is caused by sexually acquired infection with certain 
types of human papillomavirus (HPV), with two HPV types (16 and 18) accounting 
for 70% of cervical cancers and pre-cancerous cervical lesions.

Various studies have reported poor outcome of patients with metastatic cervical 
cancer. Currently, the median survival time for metastatic cervical cancer is 
only 8 to 13 months[1] and the 5-year survival rate is 16.5% compared to 91.5% 
for localized cervical cancer[2]. Contrary to patients with early-stage 
cervical cancer and locally advanced cervical cancer who have access to 
conventional treatments including surgery, chemotherapy, or radiotherapy, 
patients with metastatic cervical cancer have no standard treatment because of 
its heterogeneous manifestations.

T cells are a critical part of the body's immune system that play a central 
role in fighting virus infections and cancers. Virus-Specific T cells (VSTs), 
in particular, have the ability to recognize and kill infected cells while 
activating other parts of immune system for a coordinated response. 

HPVSTs are produced by collecting patient's blood and selectively expanding T 
cells which recognize HPV 16/18 antigens. To increase durability in the tumor 
microenvironment, the HPVSTs are armored by modifying the cells to express a 
decoy TGF-â receptor. The armored HPVSTs are expanded before undergoing strict 
quality control prior to infusion back into the patient. 

[1] van Meir H, Kenter GG, Burggraaf J, Kroep JR, Welters MJ, Melief CJ, et al. 
The need for improvement of the treatment of advanced and metastatic cervical 
cancer, the rationale for combined chemo-immunotherapy. Anticancer Agents Med 
Chem. 2014;14:190–203. 

[2] Shen G, Zhou H, Jia Z, Deng H. Diagnostic performance of diffusion-weighted 
MRI for detection of pelvic metastatic lymph nodes in patients with cervical 
cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Radiol. 2015;88:20150063.

About Tessa Therapeutics

Tessa Therapeutics is a clinical-stage immunotherapy company focused on the 
development of autologous and off-the-shelf, allogeneic therapies targeting 
solid tumors. Tessa's Virus-Specific T cell (VST) platform harnesses the body's 
potent anti-viral immune response and has shown compelling results in the 
treatment of solid tumors.

Tessa is building a portfolio of innovative, next-generation therapies by 
combining the qualities of VSTs with other immuno-oncology technologies. This 
includes a rapidly growing pipeline of clinical and pre-clinical autologous 
programs that target a wide range of cancers, including nasopharyngeal 
carcinoma, cervical cancer, oropharyngeal cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, 
bladder cancer, as well as head and neck cancer. In addition, Tessa is 
leveraging its platform to develop an allogeneic therapy to address 
Epstein-Barr virus-associated lymphomas.

Tessa has built up robust operational and supply chain capabilities to 
successfully deliver T cell therapy treatments to a large patient pool 
worldwide. Together with the Company's academic, clinical, and commercial 
research partners, Tessa has created a fully-integrated approach to the 
treatment of cancer with immunotherapy. 

For more information on Tessa, please visit

Tessa Therapeutics Media Contacts 
Gladys Wong 
+65 6384 0755

Brunswick Group 
Will Carnwath, Ben Fry  
+65 6426 8188

Source: Tessa Therapeutics