MD Anderson and Bristol-Myers Squibb announce new research collaboration in immuno-oncology focused on lung cancer

HOUSTON and NEW YORK -- Bristol-Myers Squibb Company and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center today announced a new clinical research collaboration to evaluate innovative strategies for the potential use of Bristol-Myers Squibb’s immuno-oncology agents Opdivo (nivolumab) and Yervoy (ipilimumab) to treat early- and advanced-stage lung cancer patients. 

The collaboration will help support multiple Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials testing Opdivo as monotherapy, in combination with Yervoy, or in regimens with other agents, radiation or surgery in a range of clinical settings. These studies will also incorporate extensive translational work including exploration of novel biomarkers to better differentiate responders from non-responders in lung cancer as well as preclinical studies of next generation immunotherapeutic agents that may be used to expand the benefits to larger numbers of patients.

Opdivo is a PD-1 immune checkpoint inhibitor currently approved in 50 countries globally for the treatment of patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with progression on or after platinum-based chemotherapy, and Yervoy is a CTLA-4 immune checkpoint inhibitor approved in 50 countries globally for patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma.

The collaboration will leverage MD Anderson’s existing immunotherapy platform, which helps to link immunologic data with the genomic and proteomic platforms across a range of cancer types, and broaden the scientific understanding of immunotherapy via preclinical and clinical studies in lung cancer. Data generated will assist Bristol-Myers Squibb in optimizing immunotherapy combinations for future clinical trials while also enhancing mechanistic understanding of immune system function in mounting of anti-tumor responses.

“Immunotherapy agents, such as nivolumab, already have prolonged the lives of many patients with metastatic NSCLC. Through our multidisciplinary collaboration with Bristol-Myers Squibb, we look forward to exploring innovative ways to integrate immunotherapy with other treatments, including surgery and radiation, with the goal of improving standard of care and expanding treatment options for all patients, including those with early stage disease,” said John Heymach, M.D., Ph.D., chair of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology at MD Anderson. 

Heymach also is co-leader of MD Anderson’s Lung Cancer Moon Shot, part of the institution’s Moon Shots Program to reduce cancer deaths by accelerating the development of new therapies, prevention efforts and early detection from scientific discoveries.

“Strategic collaborations with academia have been central to helping Bristol-Myers Squibb develop and deliver new immuno-oncology treatment options to patients,” said Jean Viallet, M.D., Global Clinical Research Lead, Oncology, Bristol-Myers Squibb. “This collaboration will leverage the considerable experience of MD Anderson to accelerate and expand our scientific and clinical understanding of how the immune system and other treatments might work together to fight cancer.”

MD Anderson’s immunotherapy platform, also part of the Moon Shots Program, conducts immune monitoring of tumors and blood before, during and after treatment to better understand how and when immunotherapy works.

“Having approved PD-1 inhibitors for metastatic NSCLC gives us the chance to explore what it is about the tumor microenvironment that allows response to these agents,” said Padmanee Sharma, M.D., Ph.D., immunotherapy platform scientific director and professor of Genitourinary Medical Oncology and Immunology at MD Anderson. “Immune monitoring can generate data that will improve our understanding of the mechanisms that lead to response or resistance to treatment and facilitate the development of new biomarkers to personalize treatments and match patients to the right therapies or combinations.”

Immunotherapy is an innovative approach to cancer research and treatment that is designed to harness the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths globally, resulting in more than 1.5 million deaths each year, according to the World Health Organization.

In September of 2014, Bristol-Myers Squibb and MD Anderson entered into an immunotherapy clinical collaboration focuses on the evaluation of Bristol-Myers Squibb immunotherapy assets for the treatment of hematologic malignancies, such as acute and chronic leukemia. In December 2015, Bristol-Myers Squibb and MD Anderson signed a collaboration agreement to leverage MD Anderson’s immunotherapy platform to help to link immunologic data with the genomic and proteomic platforms across a range of cancer types.