BerGenBio ASA announced it has initiated the Phase 2a portion of the BGBC016 clinical study of its selective AXL inhibitor bemcentinib in combination with standard of care therapy in first-line Non Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) patients harboring a STK11 mutation (STK11m). The initiation of Phase 2a follows apositive recommendationby the independent Drug Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) which evaluated the safety of the combination of bemcentinib with pembrolizumab (Keytruda®) and doublet chemotherapy in first-line (1L) NSCLC patients enrolled in the Phase 1b portion of the study. Patients with STK11m NSCLC have a significantly poorer response to current therapies, including immune checkpoint inhibitors, when compared with patients with wild-type (non-mutated) STK11.

AXL plays a significant role in the survival and spread of cancer and STK11m NSCLC patients have a high expression of AXL suggesting that AXL is an important target to prevent disease progression and resistance to existing therapies. Bemcentinib's selective inhibition of AXL has been shown to improve the response to immune checkpoint inhibition in STK11m patient-derived preclinical models and in early clinical studies. There are currently no targeted therapies available for the STK11m NSCLC patient population, which represents up to 20% of 1L NSCLC patients.