AVEO Oncology has announced the start of an immuno-oncology focused clinical collaboration with drug giant AstraZeneca (AZ).

The partnership will evaluate the safety and efficacy of combining AZ’ immunotherapy Imfinzi (durvalumab) with AVEO’s vascular endothelial growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor (VEGFR-TKI) Fotivda (tivozanib).

AZ has said that Imfinzi is “the first immunotherapy to show significant overall survival in a curative lung cancer treatment setting”, with data from its Phase III PACIFIC trial showing a 32% reduced risk of death in patients with stage III NSCLC receiving the drug, compared to those given the standard of care.

Fotivda, which was discovered by Kyowa Hakko Kirin, is approved for the treatment of adults with advanced renal cell carcinoma (RCC). According to the firm, it is “a potent, selective and long half-life inhibitor” of all three VEGF receptors designed to optimise VEGF blockade while minimising off-target toxicities, potentially resulting in improved efficacy and minimal dose modifications.

Michael Bailey, president and chief executive of AVEO said of the deal: “We are thrilled to collaborate with AstraZeneca to explore another tivozanib-immunotherapy combination and look forward to understanding the potential of combining tivozanib with durvalumab in liver cancer.

“TKI-immunotherapy combinations have demonstrated important clinical potential across multiple tumor types, though toxicities associated with these combinations have limited their potential use.

“Our goal is to establish tivozanib as the TKI of choice for use with immunotherapies by demonstrating efficacy with reduced toxicity.”

Phase I of the collaborative study is expected to start in 2019, with AVEO serving as the study sponsor, and costs shared equally by both parties.