Australian company says BMS study validates its own technology

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Australian company Immutep (ASX:IMM) says positive trial results from a new combination including Bristol Myers Squibb's PBS-listed OPDIVO (nivolumab) highlights the potential of its own lead candidate.

Bristol Myers Squibb announced results of the phase 2/3 study (RELATIVITY-047) involving OPDIVO and its anti-LAG-3 antibody relatlimab. The study tested the combination versus OPDIVO monotherapy in patients with previously untreated metastatic or unresectable melanoma.

According to the company, the trial met its primary endpoint of progression-free survival (PFS). It said the follow-up for overall survival is ongoing. 

“Immune checkpoint inhibitors alone or in combination have transformed treatment and improved survival rates for patients with metastatic or unresectable melanoma. However, there remain a considerable number of patients who could benefit from a novel combination therapy that leverages potentially complementary pathways to improve anti-tumour activity,” said Jonathan Cheng, senior vice president and head of oncology development, Bristol Myers Squibb. “The results of this study suggest that targeting the LAG-3 pathway in combination with PD-1 inhibition may be a key strategy to enhance the immune response and help improve outcomes for these patients.”

Immutep candidate eftilagimod alpha is an anti-LAG-3 antibody. The company is studying the potential therapy in a number of trials including two with MSD's PBS-listed KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab). It recently announced a new phase 2b study of eftilagimod alpha (efti or IMP321) in combination with KEYTRUDA as a first-line treatment of patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, compared to KEYTRUDA alone.

"This is very exciting news for patients and the immunotherapy landscape. Bristol Myers Squibb's phase 3 results for relatlimab, an anti-LAG-3 antibody, validate LAG-3 as the next immune checkpoint. Not since PD-1 and CTLA4 has there been a new immune checkpoint enter the landscape to help patients," said Immmutep CEO Mark Voigt.

"We believe LAG-3 will have many applications beyond melanoma, in multiple cancers and even in autoimmune disease. As the only LAG-3 pure-play biotech in the space, we together with our collaborators have the greatest number of product candidates around LAG-3 under evaluation and look forward to advancing these to improve patients' lives."