AstraZeneca's biologics division MedImmune has teamed up with the Cancer Research Institute (CRI) and the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research to advance research into cancer treatments that use the body's own immune system.
The partnership will see MedImmune provide three investigational monoclonal antibody immunotherapies for the Ludwig Institute and the CRI to initiate clinical trials, studying their use as combination therapies in the treatment of cancer.
These agents comprise the CTLA-4 blocking antibody tremelimumab and two immunosuppressive treatments in the form of an OX40 receptor agonist antibody and a B7-H1 (or PD-L1) blocking antibody.
As part of the agreement, the antibodies will be combined with other priority agents available to the CRI-Ludwig portfolio or potentially accessed through additional partnerships. In addition to the combination trials, MedImmune will continue its original development plan for the three agents.
Tremelimumab has previously been investigated by Pfizer in the treatment of patients with advanced melanoma, although a phase III clinical trial was halted after an interim data review showed the drug was not superior to standard chemotherapy.
The drug, which MedImmune purchased rights to in October 2011, is now in phase II trials for solid tumours. However, because Pfizer retained rights to use drug with specified types of combination therapies, it too could benefit from the MedImmune-CRI-Ludwig partnership.
"We are just beginning to scratch the surface of the immune system's potential as a new tool in cancer treatment,” said Dr Jonathan Skipper, executive director of technology development at the Ludwig Institute, an international non-profit research organisation focused on cancer.
“By identifying and evaluating new combinations of treatments, we aim to facilitate the development of a more powerful generation of smarter immunotherapy drugs to manage cancer patients' disease over the long term.”