Cancer combos are king as Sanofi-Merck and AstraZeneca-Arcus team up for next-gen trials

Lung cancer
(Isabella Del Priore and Lindsay LaFave)

Sanofi is teaming up with Merck while AstraZeneca taps Arcus as the future of cancer work is very much made together.

First up, the Sanofi-Merck trial, which will add king Keytruda to mighty Thor, or more specifically, Sanofi’s recently acquired non-alpha IL-2 asset THOR-707.

Keytruda, a checkpoint inhibitor, is being tested in more than 1,000 trials, most of which are combos in a “throw drugs at it and see what sticks” approach.

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The latest combination will use Sanofi’s early-stage IL-2, brought in from its Synthorx buyout, “combined with or in sequenced administration with [Merck’s Keytruda] in patients with various cancers,” Sanofi said in statement.

This adds to the drug’s other combo trials, which includes Sanofi’s own Libtayo (cemiplimab-rwlc), as well as with an anti-EGFR and anti-CD38 antibodies for various types of cancer tumors.

 “We believe that THOR-707 has the potential to become a foundation of the next generation of immuno-oncology therapies,” said Peter Adamson, global head, oncology development and pediatric innovation, Sanofi.

“This collaboration with MSD will enable us to explore whether THOR-707 can increase and expand the effectiveness of KEYTRUDA and improve the outcomes for patients with cancer.”

And AstraZeneca is also getting in on the combo game, tapping biotech Arcus to wed its anti-TIGIT antibody domvanalimab with AZ’s checkpoint inhibitor Imfinzi. The trial will be a registrational phase 3 in patients with unresectable stage III non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Imfinzi is already approved in this setting, though the hope is that by adding domvanalimab can help boost its efficacy.

RELATED: AstraZeneca's Imfinzi gets FDA green light to challenge Roche in small cell lung cancer

Anti-TIGITs have seen a burst of interest in recent years as a potentially new and exciting cancer target, with several trials from Merck and Roche showing combining them with checkpoint inhibitors does appear to hold promise.

This also continues a good year for Arcus, which in May struck a $2 billion pact with cancer-focused Gilead to buy into its anti-TIGIT work.

“This partnership creates an important opportunity to leverage the promise of Arcus’s anti-TIGIT antibody in stage III NSCLC,” said José Baselga, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president of oncology R&D at AstraZeneca.

“This is a promising immunotherapy combination that has the potential to further enhance the efficacy and improvement of long-term survival that Imfinzi has already demonstrated in this setting, and to allow us to unlock the full potential of this medicine.”

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