Peregrine Pharmaceuticals said today it will explore cancer-fighting treatments that combine its phosphatidylserine (PS)-targeting agents—including its lead drug candidate, the Phase III immuno-oncology prospect bavituximab for lung cancer—with other checkpoint inhibitors or immune stimulating agents, through a research collaboration with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK).

The value of the collaboration was not disclosed.

Peregrine said researchers at MSK will explore the combination of bavituximab and models of checkpoint blockade that are unresponsive to inhibition or co-stimulation. Bavituximab is capable of reprogramming myeloid derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) and increasing tumoricidal T-cells in tumors—a mechanism of action that is complementary to checkpoint blockade and T-cell activation.

Peregrine is evaluating bavituximab in several solid tumor indications, including non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), breast cancer, liver cancer, and rectal cancer. A trial in advanced melanoma is anticipated to launch in the near future, the company states on its website.

Bavituximab has been granted Fast Track designation by the FDA for the potential treatment of second-line NSCLC.

“This collaboration will allow us to focus on the role and contribution of PS blockade therapy in determining which combination of the current and next generation of immune modulators is likely to increase the extent and amplitude of anti-tumor response,” Taha Merghoub, Ph.D., associate attending biologist with MSK’s melanoma and immunotherapeutics service, Ludwig Collaborative and Swim Across America laboratories, said in a statement.

“This important preclinical and translational work will potentially guide the design of the next generation of clinical studies with bavituximab,” added Dr. Merghoub, who will direct the collaboration’s studies at MSK.

Added Jedd D. Wolchok, M.D., Ph.D., chief, melanoma and immunotherapeutics service: “We look forward to exploring the potential of PS-targeting agents alone and with other immune modulators that may lead to novel advances in cancer therapy.” Dr. Wolchok is also Lloyd J. Old Chair for Clinical Investigation as well as an associate director of the Ludwig Center for Cancer Immunotherapy at MSK.

Peregrine focuses on developing monoclonal antibodies for diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The company’s antibodies target and bind to PS, normally located on the interior of cellular membranes, but which can “flip” and become exposed on tumor cells and cells that line tumor blood vessels, helping tumors evade immune detection. PS-targeting antibodies block an immunosuppressive signal, enabling the immune system to better recognize and fight the tumor.

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