AstraZeneca partners with Advaxis to study MEDI4736, immunotherapy vaccine combination

AstraZeneca announced Tuesday that its MedImmune unit entered into a collaboration to study its experimental anti-PD-L1 immune checkpoint inhibitor MEDI4736 in combination with Advaxis' cancer immunotherapy vaccine ADXS-HPV. "We believe there could be an important clinical benefit from the combination of MEDI4736 with Advaxis's antigen-specific cancer vaccine," remarked MedImmune executive vice president Bahija Jallal.

Under the partnership, Advaxis will fund and conduct a Phase I/II study to evaluate the safety and efficacy of MEDI4736 plus ADXS-HPV as a treatment for patients with advanced, recurrent or refractory human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated cervical cancer and HPV-associated head and neck cancer. AstraZeneca cited preclinical evidence suggesting that the combination of ADXS-HPV with a checkpoint inhibitor such as MEDI4736 can enhance the overall anti-tumour response. The companies said results from the trial will help determine whether further clinical development of the combined therapy is warranted.

As part of the deal, MedImmune has the first right of negotiation for future development of combinations involving MEDI4736 and ADXS-HPV, with the company also having a non-exclusive relationship regarding HPV-driven tumour types. Advaxis CEO Daniel O'Connor noted that the trial "is the first time a PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitor will be used with a new class of immunotherapies."

Meanwhile, Jallal commented that the partnership "is further evidence of MedImmune's commitment to explore novel combination approaches as we progress our immuno-oncology portfolio." In May, MedImmune entered a deal to study MEDI4736 in combination with Incyte's oral IDO1 inhibitor INCB24360. For related analysis, see ViewPoints: Incyte hedges its bets as immuno-oncology alliances show no sign of slowing down and Spotlight On: The great immuno-oncology race – can everyone be a winner?

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