Advaxis and Incyte pair off amid immuno-oncology's partnering blitz

Advaxis ($ADXS) has signed a deal to study its in-development immuno-oncology candidate in tandem with a complementary cancer drug from Incyte ($INCY), the latest combo trial in a field rife with collaboration.

Under the deal, the two will split costs of a Phase II study testing Advaxis' ADXS-HPV and Incyte's epacadostat (formerly INCB24360) against cervical cancer. The pair plans to get started later this year, using results to determine whether the drug cocktail should move into Phase III. Neither party is disclosing financial details.

True to its name, Advaxis' candidate is designed to treat cancers associated with human papillomavirus, targeting tumor cells and potentially exposing them to the body's natural defenses. Incyte's drug is an oral treatment that blocks the enzyme IDO1, which stands in the way of the immune process, thereby helping T cells get to work on killing tumors.

Incyte CMO Rich Levy

"We believe immune-targeted combination therapy represents a promising new approach in oncology," Incyte Chief Medical Officer Rich Levy said in a statement. "This clinical trial collaboration is a further illustration of our desire to investigate the therapeutic value of our IDO1 inhibitor in multiple tumor types as rapidly as possible."

The two companies are hardly the only cancer drug developers arguing that combo treatments are the future of immuno-oncology. The field's leaders have launched a slew of cocktail studies, mixing and matching potential therapies against a wide range of cancers in hopes of discovering just which pairings can make the biggest difference for patients.

For instance, Advaxis and Incyte are working with Merck ($MRK), AstraZeneca ($AZN), Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) and Agenus ($AGEN). And the immuno-oncology partnering blitz has also looped in Amgen ($AMGN), Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ), Roche ($RHHBY) and GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK).

- read the announcement

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