The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center joined forces with Bristol Myers Squibb Company to undertake a novel clinical research dedicated to the evaluation of multiple immunotherapies, which are expected to become therapeutics for acute and chronic leukemia and other hematologic diseases. The study will include Opdivo (nivolumab), Yervoy (ipilimumab) and three early-stage clinical immuno-oncology investigational products from Bristol-Myers Squibb.
The decision to sign this agreement represents an innovation in the field, as both entities are about to start several clinical trials, focusing on multiple agents, using both single and combined regimens, but dedicated only to hematologic malignancies. Both the center and the company expect to be able to find new courses of therapy through the clinical trials.
“Collaborations between industry and academia can offer a faster and broader spectrum of clinical trials to benefit patients,” Hagop Kantarjian, M.D., chair of leukemia at MD Anderson said in the institute’s press release. “We hope innovative collaborations such as this can help lead to a higher likelihood for success across the board and will speed up the clinical development of new compounds for delivery to the patients who need them.”
Within the agreement, up to 10 phase 1 and 2 clinical trials will be launched at MD Anderson, in order to look for immune-based therapies for acute myeloid leukemia (AML), chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and myelofibrosis (MF).
“Immunotherapy is an extremely promising area of research and a key area of focus for MD Anderson’s Moonshots Program,” MD Anderson’s President Ron DePinho, M.D., explained in the press release. “Partnerships between academia and industry have the potential to significantly advance the application of new discoveries to cancer treatment.”
Immuno therapies are an innovative approach on the field of oncology focusing on the body’s own immune system to fight the disease. Treatments for hematologic malignancies have significant unmet needs, with little results specially among older and high-risk patients and the ones suffering multiple relapses. Prior studies already demonstrated the potential of immunotherapies for the treatment of leukemia and other hematologic illnesses.
The investigational PD-1 immune checkpoint inhibitor, Opdivo, was approved in Japan as a therapy for patients suffering from unresectable melanoma, and was proposed by Bristol-Myers Squibb to the health authorities as the trademark for nivolumab. The CTLA-4 immune checkpoint inhibitor, Yervoy, on the other hand, was already approved not only in the United States, but in more than 40 countries for the treatment of patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma.
“Bristol-Myers Squibb is committed to advancing the field of immuno-oncology and complementing our broad research and discovery programs through innovative collaborations with partners who share our commitment to patients,” added the executive vice president and chief scientific officer at Bristol-Myers Squibb, Francis Cuss, MB BChir, FRCP. “Cooperation between industry and academia offers a tremendous opportunity to strengthen our scientific and clinical understanding of the role of the immune system in treating cancer.”