News Feature | October 2, 2014

AstraZeneca Posts Early Data For Anti-Cancer Combo At ESMO

By Estel Grace Masangkay

AstraZeneca and its global biologics R&D arm MedImmune reported promising early results from the ongoing Phase 1 study of MEDI4736 (PD-L1) and tremelimumab (CTLA-4) combination in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who have already undergone prior treatment.

MEDI4736 is an investigational, human monoclonal antibody (mAb) that targets an immune system “checkpoint” known as programmed cell death ligand 1 (PD-L1). Tremelimumab works against CTLA-4, a different immune checkpoint. These checkpoints are usually used by the body to weaken immune response and are also often hijacked by tumor cells to evade the immune system and grow malignant. Immunotherapies, such as MEDI4736 (PD-L1) and tremelimumab, are currently a hot project in the industry that aim to recruit the patient’s immune system in the fight against cancer.

Results from the Phase 1 study demonstrated the drug combination’s tolerability and ability to fight tumors. Twenty-eight percent of the 18 patients assessed for the combo therapy’s efficacy achieved tumor shrinkage. Edward Bradley, SVP of R&D and Oncology iMED Head at MedImmune, said that they are pleased with the combo therapy’s performance. “While it is still early with a limited data set, the tolerability profile is encouraging. We have also seen some evidence of clinical activity in patients who have failed prior lines of therapy and whose tumor does not express PD-L1. This supports our strategy to explore this combination more broadly, particularly in the PD-L1 negative population. This trial will identify the optimal dose to take into our Phase 3 clinical program.”

The company presented the results in the European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) 2014 Congress in Madrid, Spain.

Other companies have joined the immunotherapy race against cancer, which is projected to be a future multi-billion market. While some combo treatments have lagged behind such as Bristol-Myers Squibb’s nivolumab and Yervoy, others have picked up steam. Indeed, Merck secured FDA approval for its infused immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab earlier this month. 

Dr Lillian L. Siu, professor of medicine and medical oncologist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, Canada, commented on the research being done on immune checkpoint inhibitors in cancer at the ESMO 2014 Congress. She said, “The remarkable antitumor activity encountered thus far across broad tumor types has generated an unprecedented wave of interest for ICIs (immune checkpoint inhibitors) in the field of oncology. The potential of these compounds given alone or in combination with existing therapeutics is enormous.”