Amazon joins Fred Hutch on clinical trial for personalized cancer vaccine — report
Amazon is partnering with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center on a Phase I trial for a cancer vaccine targeting metastatic melanoma and breast cancer.
The clinical trial is part of Amazon’s Grand Challenge, a secretive lab the tech giant started in 2014 to work on cancer research among a number of other efforts, and was first reported in Business Insider. According to clinicaltrials.gov, the Phase I trial will test a tumor antigen vaccine therapy alongside nivolumab (Opdivo) in patients with metastatic and refractory late stage melanoma and HR+/HER2- breast cancer.
The vaccine is personalized with a combination of each patient’s own tumor antigens, and the goal is to induce T cell activity against the tumors expressing those antigens. The early stage trial testing safety of the vaccine aims to enroll 20 patients.
The idea of cancer vaccines has been floated around for years, but has never quite taken off. Provenge, a prostate cancer vaccine, was approved back in 2010 but struggled in the market, and its maker Dendreon filed for bankruptcy in 2014. (The company has since pivoted to offer contract manufacturing services.)
Known for its Pfizer-partnered Covid vaccine, BioNTech has also seen middling results with its personalized cancer vaccine. However, that hasn’t slowed the biotech, as it continues to test an mRNA cancer vaccine partnership with Genentech and recently expanded its collaboration with Regeneron.
Jeff Bezos himself has previously funded a number of other R&D efforts, most infamously in the anti-aging space. The billionaire is a backer of Altos Labs, an anti-aging play where Nobel laureates Jennifer Doudna and Shinya Yamanaka are involved. He is also a backer of Unity Biotechnology, which recently started a Phase II trial for a small molecule treatment for age-related macular degeneration.
On its new partnership, Fred Hutch said in an emailed statement:
Fred Hutch is working with Amazon to explore the development of a personalized treatment for certain forms of cancer. Fred Hutch recently received permission from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to proceed with a Phase I clinical trial, which is now underway. It’s very early in a long, multi-year process, and success is by no means guaranteed. The program is an important example of how Fred Hutch works with collaborators to develop new therapies.