Roche and Amgen are to collaborate on a cancer immunotherapy study into investigational medicines talimogene laherparepvec and atezolizumab.
The companies hope that combining these two agents will increase their effectiveness. Their aim is to activate an anti-tumour immune response with talimogene laherparepvec and to block inhibitory T cell checkpoints using atezolizumab.
A phase 1b study will be carried out to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the treatments in patients with triple-negative breast cancer and colorectal cancer with liver metastases.
Talimogene laherparepvec is an investigational oncolytic immunotherapy designed to selectively replicate in tumours and to initiate an immune response to target cancer cells, leaving normal tissue unaffected.
It works in two complementary ways. Firstly, it is injected directly into tumours, where it replicates inside the tumour's cells, causing them to rupture and die in a process known as lysis.
In the second stage, the rupture of the cancer cells can release tumour-derived antigens, along with GM-CSF, that can stimulate a system-wide immune response, enabling the body's white blood cells to locate and target cancer that has spread throughout the body.
Atezolizumab is an investigational monoclonal antibody designed to interfere with the PD-L1 protein expressed on tumour cells and tumour-infiltrating immune cells, preventing it from binding to PD-1 and B7.1 on the surface of T cells.
Inhibiting this protein may enable the activation of T cells, restoring their ability to effectively detect and attack tumour cells.
"We believe that talimogene laherparepvec has potential to help patients in several cancer types based on its mechanism of action to promote tumour antigen release and presentation, important steps in activating a systemic immune response," said Dr Sean Harper, executive vice-president of research and development at Amgen.
"This further builds our alliance network in oncology and we look forward to collaborating with Roche on this study as part of our increasing efforts in immuno-oncology."