The study will test AstraZeneca's Imfinzi alongside Incyte's
second-generation immunotherapy drug epacadostat, a so-called IDO
inhibitor that also helps the immune system fight cancer.
Excitement has been building about epacadostat on the back of recent
promising clinical data, and U.S.-based Incyte already has
agreements with Merck & Co and Bristol-Myers Squibb for separate
Phase III trials.
Incyte's decision to partner with multiple big drugmakers in this
way has led Bernstein analyst Tim Anderson to describe it as a
In the case of the deal with AstraZeneca, the combination of Imfinzi
and epacadostat will be tested in patients with relatively early, or
stage III, lung cancer. As such, it builds on the success of Imfinzi
alone in this setting.
The Phase III trial will be co-funded by the two companies and
conducted by AstraZeneca. It is expected to begin enrolling patients
in the first half of 2018, the two groups said on Tuesday.
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Epacadostat works by blocking an enzyme that protects tumors from
the immune system, while Imfinzi is one of five approved drugs known
as PD-L1 or PD-1 inhibitors that block a different mechanism that
cancer cells use to evade detection.
Experts think the two could work well together without the added
toxicity seen with other combinations because Imfinzi is systemic,
while epacadostat works specifically at the tumor site.
(Reporting by Ben Hirschler, editing by Louise Heavens)
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