The clinical collaboration will help Novartis advance its efforts in
the field of immunotherapy, one of the hottest areas in biotech
right now, following the acquisition of CoStim Pharmaceuticals Inc
this year, the drugmaker said.
Novartis currently lags rivals such as Roche, Merck, AstraZeneca and
Bristol-Myers in the race to develop immunotherapies - drugs that
fight cancer by harnessing the body's immune system.
The two companies will test the combination of three molecularly
targeted compounds with Bristol-Myers' investigational PD-1 immune
checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo (nivolumab) in phase I and II studies,
Novartis said, adding it would conduct both studies.
"Preclinical data suggests that combining molecularly targeted
agents with immunotherapies such as nivolumab may have synergistic
effects and lead to better outcomes for patients," Alessandro Riva,
global head of Novartis oncology development and medical affairs,
said in the statement.
Opdivo is part of a closely watched class of drugs known as
anti-PD-1 therapies, which block a tumor's ability to camouflage
itself from attack by the immune system's cells.
The drug is approved in Japan for the treatment of unresectable
melanoma and is under review by the U.S and European health
regulators. It is also being tested as a treatment for a range of
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One of the Novartis studies will evaluate Opdivo with Novartis'
Zykadia, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) in April as a treatment for late-stage non-small cell lung
The second study will test Opdivo with two investigational drugs,
INC280 and EGF816.
Novartis is also developing Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell, or
CAR-T, immunotherapies, which involves engineering a patient's own
T-cells to identify proteins on cancer cells.
(Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz and Caroline Copley; Ediing by Ryan
Woo and Susan Thomas)
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