AbbVie, Infinity tout preclinical evidence of a cancer combo's potential

Preclinical research can play a big role in pursuing new combination therapies. Case in point: Infinity's ($INFI) duvelisib (IPI-145). Partnered with AbbVie ($ABBV), investigators have gone back to the lab to help establish what the PI3K-delta/gamma inhibitor might best be paired with. And not too surprisingly they concluded that AbbVie's BCL-2 protein inhibitor venetoclax (ABT-199) might make a good match.

Working with researchers at MD Anderson Cancer Center, a team of investigators evaluated gene and protein expression in samples of chronic lymphocytic leukemia taken from patients in a Phase I study.

They concluded that duvelisib "enhanced the expression of certain factors that promote apoptosis and also enhanced the expression of BCL-2, a protein known to suppress apoptosis. Additionally, tumor samples from CLL patients treated with duvelisib for 28 days exhibited increased tumor cell apoptosis, or cell death, when treated with venetoclax ex vivo compared to pre-duvelisib therapy samples, suggesting that duvelisib sensitizes the tumor cells to BCL-2 inhibition."

The investigators presented their conclusion at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting in Philadelphia.

AbbVie has been focusing a considerable amount of attention on its blood cancer drug ABT199. It's frequently touted the treatment as one of its top cancer contenders as it works hard at diversifying its product portfolio. Combo strategies are also a major focus in oncology in general and analysts have been paying close attention to this matchup as the companies look to best rivals like Gilead's ($GILD) Zydelig (idelalisib).

"This research highlights Infinity's ongoing preclinical program with AbbVie, our global partner for duvelisib in oncology, to identify which therapies may be synergistic with duvelisib in order to guide the combination component of our clinical development strategy with the goal of further improving treatment outcomes for patients," stated Vito Palombella, Infinity's chief scientific officer.

- here's the release