Pharma Focus Asia

Merus Develops Novel Petosemtamab for the Treatment of Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (HNSCC)

Merus has introduced a pioneering treatment called petosemtamab, tailored for patients grappling with recurrent or metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) that has advanced despite prior treatment with platinum-based chemotherapy and either an anti- programmed cell death receptor-1 (PD-1) or anti- programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) antibody.

Petosemtamab, also known as MCLA-158, is an innovative biclonic® antibody with reduced fucose content, comprising a full-length IgG1 human antibody. It specifically targets two crucial receptors: the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and the leucine-rich repeat containing G-protein-coupled receptor 5 (LGR5).

This therapeutic agent operates through three distinct mechanisms: obstructing EGFR- dependant signalling, facilitating EGFR internalisation and degradation within cancer cells through LGR5 binding, and augmenting antibody-dependant cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC) and antibody-dependent cellular phagocytosis (ADCP) activities.

HNSCC is characterised by the development of cancers within the squamous cells lining the mucosal surfaces of the oral cavity, pharynx, and larynx. Typically attributed to factors such as tobacco use, alcohol consumption, or HPV infections, HNSCC ranks as the sixth most prevalent cancer worldwide. 

The incidence of HNSCC continues to escalate, with projections indicating a 30 percent increase, surpassing 1 million new cases annually by 2030. Despite existing treatment modalities, HNSCC remains a grave and life-threatening illness with a bleak prognosis.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted breakthrough therapy designation (BTD) for patients contending with recurrent or metastatic HNSCC, specifically those whose disease has progressed after receiving platinum-based chemotherapy and either an anti-PD-1 or anti-PD-L1 antibody.


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