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Ikena Oncology, Vall d'Hebron Institute Partner on Biomarker Research

NEW YORK – Ikena Oncology on Monday said it is working with the Vall d'Hebron Institute of Oncology to research biomarkers that could inform the development of its Hippo- and RAS-targeted therapies.

The partners hope to deepen their understanding of Hippo and RAS pathway-mediated drug resistance and explore novel therapeutic combination strategies that can improve patients' responses. Through the collaboration, Ikena will have access to patients' samples and the experts at the Vall d'Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO) in Barcelona, Spain. Jeffrey Ecsedy, Ikena's chief development officer, noted in a statement that the firm will also gain access to "novel tumor models and patient diagnostic, biomarker, and response data beyond what is available in the public domain."

The biomarker research will inform the development of Ikena's targeted cancer therapy programs for these pathways. The Boston-based firm is studying its lead candidate, the TEAD inhibitor IK-930, in a Phase I trial as both a monotherapy and a combination therapy in Hippo-altered cancers. The trial is enrolling patients with solid tumors that are NF2 deficient or harbor YAP1/TAZ gene fusions.

The company also has preclinical candidates against Hippo-altered cancers and RAS-mutated cancers, both of which are in the discovery stage.

"This partnership will help expand knowledge of Hippo and RAS, two pathways that are known to drive cancer, but that require deeper understanding to identify druggable targets and potential benefit for patients," Josep Tabernero, director of VHIO, said in a statement. "VHIO investigators gaining access to Ikena's discovery and development expertise and novel molecules are important steps towards advancing our community's collective understanding of cancer biology."

Ikena is also developing two drugs targeting immune-signaling: IK-175 as a monotherapy and with Bristol Myers Squibb's Opdivo (nivolumab) in AHR-enriched bladder and head and neck cancers, and IK-007 with Merck's Keytruda (pembrolizumab) in microsatellite stable colorectal cancer.