AstraZeneca has linked up with US biotech Advaxis to develop their respective cancer immunotherapies in combination.

Specifically, the firms will evaluate AstraZeneca’s closely-watched PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitor MEDI4736 in a Phase I/II study with Advaxis’ cancer vaccine ADXS-HPV in patients with human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated cervical cancer and HPV-associated head and neck cancer. MEDI4736, developed by AstraZeneca’s MedImmune unit, blocks a signal that helps tumours avoid detection, while ADXS-HPV enhances the ability of immune cells to combat the tumour.  

Preclinical evidence suggests that the combination of ADXS-HPV with a checkpoint inhibitor can enhance overall anti-tumour response. Daniel O’Connor, Advaxis chief executive claimed that this is the first time a PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitor will be used with a new class of immunotherapies, adding that “as multiple companies vie for a competitive advantage in the future PD-L1 market, the ability of our immunotherapy platform to attack multiple tumour targets makes it an attractive combination therapy”.

AstraZeneca has recently initiated other immuno-oncology combination trials, including a collaboration to study MEDI4736 with Incyte’s oral indoleamine dioxygenase-1 inhibitor INCB24360.