Pfizer has linked up with Kyowa Hakko Kirin to develop an immuno-oncology combination therapy.

The firms are to begin a Phase Ib study evaluating the combination of Pfizer’s PF-05082566, an early-stage fully humanised monoclonal antibody that targets the 4-1BB protein with the Japanese drugmaker’s mogamulizumab. The latter is approved in Japan in May 2012 for the treatment of patients with relapsed or refractory CCR4-positive adult T-cell leukaemia-lymphoma, as well for peripheral and cutaneous T-cell lymphomas.

Mace Rothenberg, chief medical officer for Pfizer Oncology said “we believe that combination therapy in immuno-oncology holds great promise to improve outcomes for patients with cancer and provides an exciting opportunity for [the company] to maximise the potential of our emerging immuno-oncology portfolio”. He added that the collaboration with KHK “provides an additional important partnership opportunity to explore the potential of 4-1BB as part of a novel immunotherapy combination regimen”.

Yoichi Sato, head of R&D at KHK, said that with recent progress in the field of cancer immunotherapy, the combination of mogamulizumab and the 4-1BB agonist "has the potential to bring significant benefits to patients". He added that collaborating with Pfizer "is an important component of KHKs ongoing transformation into a global specialty pharmaceutical company".

Pfizer is currently evaluating PF-05082566 in a Phase I study as a single agent, as well as in several combination studies, including one with the blockbuster Rituxan (rituximab) in non-Hodgkin lymphoma patients.