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AZ signs yet another cancer immunotherapy deal

Will work with Omnis to develop viruses that target tumour cells
AZ cancer immunotherapy

AstraZeneca (AZ) has once again reaffirmed its commitment to researching cancer immunotherapies, forming a partnership with Omnis Pharmaceuticals.

The two companies with work together to develop oncolytic viruses - viruses that are designed to infect and kill cancer cells.

AZ's responsibilities in the collaboration will fall to its MedImmune division, which will test several of its investigational immunotherapies in combination with a genetically engineered strain of vesicular stomatitis virus developed by US-based biotech Omnis.

Omnis' virus stain is already being studied in a phase I trial investigating its safety and effectiveness as a monotherapy in liver cancer and AZ will be looking to see how the drug works as part of a combination regimen.

The potential for oncolytic viruses as cancer treatments has been known for several decades although it is only in the past few years that researchers have been able to develop viable treatments in this class.

The most advanced is Amgen's OncoVex (talimogene laherparepvec), which in 2013 became the first oncolytic virus to show efficacy in a phase III trial involving people with the skin cancer melanoma. The drug's clinical studies remain ongoing, but it has been submitted for approval to both US and European regulatory authorities.

Dr Edward Bradley, head of the oncology innovative medicines unit at AZ's MedImmune division, said: “Oncolytic viruses combine potent tumour cell killing with increasing the visibility of the tumour cell to the immune system. Our immunotherapy molecules offer the prospect of boosting the cancer-killing abilities of these viruses by enhancing the anti-cancer effect.”

AZ has been building its profile in cancer immunotherapies via a number of a collaborations and acquisitions since Pascal Soriot took over as CEO in 2012 and the company's head of oncology Susan Galbraith last year told PMLiVE that the class was a priority area for its research.

Leading AZ's growing immunotherapy pipeline is MEDI4736, one of several of a very promising new class of cancer treatments called anti-PD1s.

AZ has several research collaborations involving this drug, including one with Advaxis that was signed in July last year, as well as deals with Johnson & Johnson and Pharmacyclics to test various combinations of MEDI4736 and other treatments.

Article by
Thomas Meek

12th January 2015

From: Research

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