MD Anderson To Collaborate With Bristol-Myers Squibb In Development of Leukemia Immunotherapies

MD Anderson To Collaborate With Bristol-Myers Squibb In Development of Leukemia Immunotherapies

A new clinical research collaboration to evaluate potential treatment options for acute and chronic leukemia has been announced by Bristol-Myers Squibb Company and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Multiple immunotherapies such as Opdivo (nivolumab), Yervoy (ipilimumab) and three Bristol-Myers Squibb’s early-stage clinical immuno-oncology resources will be assessed. Ten phase 1 and two clinical trials will be launched and conducted by MD Anderson for acute myeloid leukemia (AML), chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and myelofibrosis (MF).

According to the MD Anderson press release, several clinical trials will be conducted to the same specific disease target. By using multiple agents in single and combined patterns to treat the same hematologic malignancies, researchers expect a quicker delivery of new therapies to patients and, consequently, benefit them and their health condition.

This collaboration brings together academia, industry and the possibility of “a faster and broader spectrum of clinical trials to benefit patients,” stated Hagop Kantarjian, M.D., chair of leukemia department at MD Anderson. Dr. Kantarjian hopes that this kind of collaborations can ultimately speed up the development of new compounds and their availability to patients. In other words, it is an attempt to accelerate the process between new discoveries and the moment that they become ready to use in cancer treatment.

“Immunotherapy is an extremely promising area of research and a key area of focus for MD Anderson’s Moonshots Program,” Ron DePinho, MD Anderson President explained in the press release.

Immunotherapy consists in treating a disease by inducing, enhancing or even suppressing an immune response. Therapies used against cancer such as radiation, surgery or cytotoxic approaches can be inefficient in advanced stages of the disease. Immunotherapy intends to work directly with the immune system and fight cancer from within. However, the process is complex, since many different biological pathways are involved. Nevertheless, Bristol-Myers Squibb is leading remarkable advances in the innovative field of immuno-oncology and they have become committed to change survival expectations and patients’ life quality.

 About Opdivo (nivolumab) and About Yervoy (ipilimumab)

Cancer cells exploit regulatory pathways to hide from the immune system and protect the tumor from immune assault. Opdivo is an investigational PD-1 (programmed death 1) immune checkpoint inhibitor; it means that it is able to bind himself to the checkpoint receptor PD-1 expressed on T-cells when they are activated. It is used for the treatment of patients with unresectable melanoma and it has received marketing and manufacturing approval in Japan.

Yervoy is being used in patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma. It is a human monoclonal antibody that blocks the CTLA-4 (cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated antigen-4). CTLA-4 is a negative regulator of T-cell activation. Yervoy binds himself to CTLA-4 and blocks its interaction with its ligands (CD80/CD86), increasing  T-cell activation and proliferation. Yervoy has been approved in the United States and in 40 other countries.