Bristol-Myers Squibb adds to its roster of checkpoint combo studies, partnering with Array and Advaxis

The parade of new immuno-oncology partnerships continued Tuesday morning with two new alliances on the checkpoint front from Bristol-Myers Squibb $BMY.

Deal #1: Bristol-Myers is stepping in to work with Array BioPharma on a new double- and triple-play combo for colorectal cancer. Array $ARRY saw its shares surge 8% on the news it will be combining its experimental MEK inhibitor binimetinib with Opdivo as well as Opdivo plus Yervoy in a Phase I/II exploratory study looking at cases of colorectal cancer with stable microsatellite tumors.

The partners will be looking for the right doses in their early study, set to begin later this year.

Fouad Namouni

“Colorectal cancer remains a challenging tumor where immunotherapy benefits have been limited to a subset of patients,” said Fouad Namouni, senior vice president, head of Oncology Development, Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Deal #2: Advaxis’ $ADXS use of bioengineered bacteria to recruit a T cell attack on cancer attracted a big tie-up with Amgen $AMGN last summer. And now the Princeton, NJ-based biotech is back with a combo partnership with Bristol-Myers pairing their ADXS-DUAL alongside Opdivo against metastatic cervical cancer.

Advaxis has been adding HPV targeted antigens to help amp up its therapy. And it will be looking for pivotal data to try something new in cervical cancer, sponsoring the study with Bristol-Myers contributing its drug to the effort.

Daniel O’Connor

“The additional HPV antigens have the potential to provide coverage against numerous HPV types in cervical cancer and other HPV-associated cancers,” said Advaxis CEO Daniel O’Connor in a statement. “By studying the combination of Opdivo and ADXS-DUAL, we hope to bring a new option to metastatic cervical cancer patients with persistent, recurrent or metastatic disease. We are looking forward to working with Bristol-Myers Squibb to explore the potential of this combination.”

PD-1 and PD-L1 checkpoint drugs like Opdivo and Keytruda from Merck have been all the rage on the partnering side of the business. These deals usually come with no great cost to the company with a marketed drug and their allies are getting a clean shot at boosting efficacy with a new approach with broad applicability in oncology.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
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Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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