They will use Inovio’s ASPIRE immunotherapy platform to develop the immuno-oncology combo regimens. The technology leverages the body’s natural mechanisms to generate targeted immune responses that can treat a disease while avoiding unwanted side effects.
The contribution from the Parker Institute, a consortium of leading U.S. immunologists and cancer centers, will be its immunotherapy expertise and its research network of studies on cancers with high unmet needs.
Together, the partners will design new studies that look at cancers with unmet needs and evaluate possible combination regimens for their treatment. An initial clinical trial is already under consideration to evaluate INO-5401 in combination with checkpoint inhibitors and immune modulators to treat muscle-invasive bladder cancer.
INO-5401 is an immunotherapy that encodes antigens for the WT1, hTERT, and PSMA proteins, which are found at high levels in several cancers.
Checkpoint inhibitors prevent cancer cells from hiding from cancer-eliminating immune cells. Immune modulators adjust immune response to a desired level.
“This collaboration between the Parker Institute and Inovio exemplifies the mission of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy to unlock the promise of immunotherapy by rapidly progressing next-generation treatments into clinical trials,” Fred Ramsdell, vice president of research at the institute, said in a press release. “If this collaboration leads to better cancer patient responses to immunotherapy, this would mark an important milestone for the field.”
In November 2017, Inovio launched a Phase 1b/2a clinical trial testing a triple immunotherapy combination for glioblastoma multiforme to evaluate its T-cell activating therapies INO-5401 and INO-9012 in combination with cemiplimab, a PD-1 inhibitor developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.
While INO-5401 encodes for cancer proteins, INO-9012 encodes for the interleukin-12 (IL-12) protein, which triggers the activation and expansion of immune T-cells, boosting the anti-cancer immune response.
The rationale behind the study is that combining the specificity of INO-5401 with therapies that boost immune responses — like INO-9012— may lead to better treatment response and survival rates.
Earlier, in June of 2017, Inovio initiated another Phase 1/2 trial to test INO–5401 and INO–9012 in combination with the immune checkpoint inhibitor Tecentriq (atezolizumab) in advanced bladder cancer.
“We believe INO–5401 has significant potential as a cancer immunotherapeutic in combination with a checkpoint inhibitor to address the high unmet medical need for advanced bladder cancer patients and to provide meaningful benefit for checkpoint inhibitor refractory patients,” J. Joseph Kim, Inovio’s president and chief executive officer, said of INO-5401 at the time.