BTG said today it will partner with the Society of Interventional Oncology (SIO) to study the potential of minimally invasive therapies in immuno-oncology, through a collaboration whose value was not disclosed.

The specialty drug developer and interventional oncology member organization reason that an expanded number of cancer patients could benefit from combinations of immuno-oncology agents with minimally invasive, loco-regional therapies of interventional oncology.

“Our portfolio includes embolic beads, radioactive microspheres, and cryotherapy solutions, and this research will answer important questions about whether these minimally invasive therapies can expand the benefits of immuno-oncology drugs,” BTG CSO Melanie Lee, Ph.D., said in a statement.

While checkpoint inhibitors turn off signals that can inhibit the ability of T cells to kill cancer cells, responses differ based on the different immunological challenges of different tumors, as well as factors in the local tumor microenvironment. Loco-regional therapies are designed to debulk tumors, which the partners say may make it easier for the immune system to tackle what remains.

Some evidence also shows that loco-regional therapies can induce a tumor-specific immune response, releasing tumor antigens, and thus help create an antitumor microenvironment, according to BTG and SIO.

BTG said it has established a working group with SIO to determine how best to explore the role of interventional oncology alongside immuno-oncology against cancer. The group—which includes interventional radiologists and immuno-oncologists—plans to identify unmet clinical needs and critical areas of science that require further research. The working group plans to publish a white paper later this year that is intended to guide research and clinical practice.

Through the collaboration, BTG said, an independent research fund has been established to enable SIO to fund independent investigators through grants for research designed to address “critical” unanswered questions for the combination therapy. SIO plans to fund collaborative research ranging from exploratory pilot projects to prospective clinical trials, BTG added, without disclosing how much in funding would be available.

“This research collaboration with BTG will help provide the resources necessary to further uncover how interventional oncology procedures may work synergistically when combined with another of the most cutting edge oncologic strategies—immunotherapy,” added S. Nahum Goldberg, M.D., chair of SIO Interventional/Immuno-oncology Working Group. Dr. Goldberg is also vice-chair for research and head of the Interventional Oncology Unit at Hadassah Hebrew University Medical Center in Jerusalem.

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