NEW YORK and GAITHERSBURG, Md., Oct. 9, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- The Cancer Research Institute (CRI), the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and MedImmune, the global biologics arm of AstraZeneca, today announced that they have signed a collaboration agreement to advance the research of immunotherapy in cancer. Specifically, the research will focus on clinical trials to test novel combinations of immunotherapies, including three investigational monoclonal antibodies from MedImmune's pipeline.
Therapeutic strategies that seek to recalibrate and amplify a patient's immune system to better recognize and attack cancer are quickly gaining momentum. In the last few years, approvals of this new class of treatments called immunotherapy have laid a strong foundation for a new wave of more effective immune system-based drugs that will offer greater clinical benefit for a larger percentage of cancer patients.
"We are just beginning to scratch the surface of the immune system's potential as a new tool in cancer treatment," said Jonathan Skipper, PhD, executive director of Technology Development at the Ludwig Institute. "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."
The Ludwig Institute and CRI will conduct trials of cancer immunotherapy combinations using three investigational monoclonal antibodies that MedImmune will provide to CRI and the Ludwig Institute from its product pipeline, combined with other priority agents available to the CRI/Ludwig portfolio or potentially accessed through additional partnerships. The MedImmune agents include the CTLA-4 blocking antibody tremelimumab, an OX40 receptor agonist antibody, and a B7-H1 (or PD-L1) blocking antibody. These antibodies modify regulatory checkpoints of the immune system, and are able to increase the body's immune response to cancer. In addition to the combination trials, MedImmune will continue its original development plan for the three agents, which are currently being studied in pre-clinical and clinical studies.
"We are fortunate to partner with MedImmune to incorporate three of its promising immunotherapies into our portfolio of cutting-edge clinical research and development. Our goal is to utilize the expertise of our global network of clinicians and scientists to identify new immunotherapy combinations and to launch important clinical studies that might not have happened otherwise, helping to bring more effective treatments to patients sooner," said Adam Kolom, managing director of CRI's Cancer Vaccine Acceleration Fund, a venture philanthropy fund that makes non-profit-motivated investments to support the costs of innovative immunotherapy clinical trials.
Different cancer immunotherapies are designed to achieve distinct, yet potentially complementary effects on the immune system. Developing treatments that use combinations of immunotherapies could, therefore, enable scientists to attack a particular cancer on multiple fronts and decrease the chances of immune escape.
"This collaboration is an innovative way to advance immunologic therapies and uncover optimal treatments for patients with cancer," said Edward Bradley, MD, senior vice president and head of MedImmune's Oncology Innovative Medicines Unit. "By joining forces in the early stages of clinical development, MedImmune can leverage the extensive experience and synergy of these premier cancer research institutions to expand its portfolio of clinical-stage immune-active molecules."
The clinical trials will be conducted by CRI and the Ludwig Institute through their jointly coordinated global Cancer Vaccine Collaborative (CVC) network of clinical immunologists and oncologists with extensive knowledge and focus on immunotherapy programs. The CVC is led by Jedd Wolchok, MD, PhD, assistant member of the Ludwig Institute and an associate attending physician and director of Immunotherapy Clinical Trials at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Financial terms were not disclosed.
About Tremelimumab (CTLA-4 blocking antibody)
Tremelimumab is a fully human monoclonal antibody which binds to the protein CTLA-4, expressed on the surface of activated T lymphocytes. Anti-CTLA-4 antibodies comprise a new generation of immunotherapies for the potential treatment of cancer. Tremelimumab is currently in phase 2 clinical development for solid tumors.
About Anti-OX40 Mab
Anti-OX40 is a monoclonal antibody agonist of the OX40 receptor which is a member of the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) receptor superfamily expressed on the surface of activated T-cells. The immune stimulating properties of OX40 agonists could provide an immunologic stimulus to overcome some of the immunosuppressive properties of cancer, and thus offers potential as a new class of agents for the treatment of cancer.
About PD-L1 monoclonal Antibody (Anti-B7-H1) or MEDI4736
B7 homolog 1 (B7-H1) is part of a complex system of receptors and ligands that are involved in controlling T-cell activation. Preclinical research suggests that tumors expressing B7-H1 evade detection and elimination of a tumor by the immune system. Preclinical studies of MEDI4736, a human monoclonal antibody directed against B7-H1, have been shown to block the interaction between B7-H1 and its receptors, PD-1 and CD80 (B7-1). This blockade may help to overcome the immunosuppressive effects of B7-H1 on anti-tumor T cells.
About the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research
The Ludwig Institute is an international non-profit organization committed to improving the understanding and control of cancer through integrated laboratory and clinical discovery. Leveraging its worldwide network of investigators and the ability to sponsor and conduct its own clinical trials, the Institute is actively engaged in translating its discoveries into applications for patient benefit. Since its establishment in 1971, the Institute has expended more than $1.5 billion on cancer research. www.licr.org
About the Cancer Research Institute
The Cancer Research Institute (CRI), established in 1953, is the world's only nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to transforming cancer patient care by advancing scientific efforts to develop new and effective immune system-based strategies to prevent, diagnose, treat, and cure cancer. Guided by a world-renowned Scientific Advisory Council that includes three Nobel laureates and 30 members of the National Academy of Sciences, CRI has invested more than $200 million in support of research conducted by immunologists and tumor immunologists at the world's leading medical centers and universities, and has contributed to many of the key scientific advances that demonstrate the potential for immunotherapy to change the face of cancer treatment. Learn more at www.cancerresearch.org.
MedImmune, the global biologics arm for AstraZeneca PLC, has approximately 3,500 employees worldwide and is headquartered in Gaithersburg, Maryland. For more information, visit MedImmune's website at www.medimmune.com.