Exelixis and Bristol-Myers Squibb Company have formed a clinical development collaboration to evaluate a potential new combination therapy for the treatment of various cancers.

The groups will assess a combination of Exelixis' Cabometyx (cabozantinib), a small molecule inhibitor of receptor tyrosine kinases, and BMS' PD-1 immune checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo (nivolumab), either alone or in combination with Yervoy (ipilimumab), as a first line treatment for renal cell carcinoma.

Additional trials are planned in bladder cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, and potentially other tumour types, the firms noted.

"This clinical development collaboration will provide the resources and collaborative framework to fully evaluate the potential for this combination, with and without Yervoy, in both late-stage pivotal and exploratory trials in a variety of forms of cancer," said Michael Morrissey, president and chief executive of Exelixis, commenting on the deal.

"Combining our Immuno-Oncology portfolio with promising agents which target different and complementary pathways is a key component of our strategy to improve treatment outcomes for patients," added Fouad Namouni, head of development, Oncology, BMS.

The companies said their collaboration builds upon previously published preclinical and clinical data that provide a scientific rationale for combining Cabometyx with immunotherapies.

Cabometyx and Opdivo have both received approval in the US and EU for specific uses in previously treated renal cell carcinoma, and both compounds are the subject of ongoing, global Phase III pivotal trials in hepatocellular carcinoma. Opdivo is also approved in the US for previously treated bladder cancer.