PDS Biotech Initiates VERSATILE-002 Phase 2 Combination Trial of PDS0101-KEYTRUDA® in Recurrent/Metastatic Head and Neck Cancer in Collaboration with Merck

PDS Biotechnology announced that its VERSATILE-002 Phase 2 clinical trial evaluating the combination of PDS0101 and KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) for the first-line treatment of head and neck cancer that has returned or spread is now open. The trial is being conducted in collaboration with Merck.

The VERSATILE-002 Phase 2 trial is a multi-center, open label, single arm, non-randomized trial that plans to enroll approximately 100 patients across 25 sites in the U.S. The University of Tennessee Medical Center is the first site to open. The studies to be performed at the UT Medical Center will be led by Principal Investigator Dr. Timothy Panella, M.D. The clinical study will evaluate the efficacy and safety of PDS0101, PDS Biotech’s lead Versamune®-based immunotherapy targeting human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated cancers, in combination with KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab), Merck's checkpoint inhibitor, in the first-line treatment of patients with HPV16-positive head and neck cancer that has returned or spread. KEYTRUDA® was approved by the FDA in June 2019 as first-line treatment for recurrent or metastatic head and neck cancer. VERSATILE-002 will study if combining PDS0101 with KEYTRUDA® is more effective than what has been previously shown with KEYTRUDA® alone. The main efficacy endpoint in this study is shrinkage of the tumor referred to as the objective response rate (ORR) at nine months following the initiation of treatment with the combination.

Dr. Frank Bedu-Addo, CEO of PDS Biotech Commented “The launch of the VERSATILE-002 Phase 2 trial demonstrates our commitment to developing a safe and effective treatment option that builds upon the current standard of care for patients with this aggressive cancer and further strengthens our collaboration with Merck, Though the COVID-19 pandemic impacted our initial timeline, we are pleased to open up this trial to patients.”

Dr. Lauren V. Wood, Chief Medical Officer of PDS Biotech added, “Initial studies suggest that Versamune®-based immunotherapies administered in combination with checkpoint inhibitors, such as KEYTRUDA®, have the potential to enhance the immune system’s ability to induce a more powerful and targeted anti-tumor response. We look forward to sharing updates as this study progresses.”

Dr. Timothy Panella, who is the VERSATILE-002 Principal Investigator at the UT Medical Center Commented “We are thrilled to offer our patients with recurrent or metastatic head and neck cancer such an exciting and potentially safe treatment option, this type of combination approach is attractive to patients and offers a novel targeted therapy in the fight against this very challenging disease.”

Dr. Jared Weiss, Section Chief of Thoracic and Head and Neck Oncology at the University of Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine and Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, is serving as the Lead Principal Investigator of VERSATILE-002. 

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