French immunotherapeutics firm Transgene and the Ligue national contre le cancer (French league against cancer) are partnering to exploit the latter’s cancer-target technologies for the development of new biotherapies. The League’s Carte d’Identité des Tumeurs (CIT) initiative, established in 2000, has been focused on analyzing genetic alterations in a range of cancers for use in the development of biomarkers and pathway-specific anticancer targets. The partnership between Transgene and the League aims to identify cancer-specific membrane targets from gene expression data collected on over 4,800 tumors.
Transgene is focused on the development of immunotherapeutics against cancer and chronic infectious diseases. The firm’s lead anticancer candidate, TG4010, is based on a recombinant vaccinia virus expressing the MUC1 antigen and human IL2. The product is poised to start in Phase III development for the treatment of metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), in combination with first line chemotherapy. In March 2010, Novartis negotiated an exclusive option agreement for the development and commercialization of TG4010, as first-line treatment for NSCLC and for other potential cancer indications.
The firm’s second clinical-stage anticancer product, JX594/TG6006, is an engineered oncolytic vaccinia virus (Wyeth strain) armed with the immunostimulatory cytokine GM-CSF. Transgene licensed rights to develop the drug in Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Middle East, from Jennerex in September 2010. JX594/TG6006 is in development initially for the treatment of primary hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), and metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC). Just last month the firms started a Phase IIb clinical trial, Traverse, evaluating JX594/TG6006 in the treatment of patients with HCC, who have failed prior therapy with Nexavar® (sorafenib). Start of the study coincided with the release of data from a Phase II study demonstrating that advanced liver cancer patients receiving a high dose of JX594/TG6006 survived more than twice as long as patients receiving a low dose (control).