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Gilead aims to claim edge with Pfizer CAR-T combo

Published on 18/01/18 at 04:06pm

Although those in pharma often dislike any references to drugs competing with each other for market as in a ‘race’, it’s inevitable that such allusions will be drawn between rivals.

Gilead’s recent acquisition, Kite Pharma, is one of two CAR-T therapies to receive approvals, alongside Novartis’ Kymriah, and comparing it to an arm’s race is the temptation. If that were the case, Kite’s recent team up with Pfizer looks set to test whether its treatment can go nuclear on refractory large B-cell lymphoma.

It’s the first such announcement of a combination therapy utilising CAR-T and another agent, and will be watched with a fair degree of interest, as the Phase 1/2 study could indicate the future of the field.

Pfizer is offering up its fully humanised 4-1BB agonist monoclonal antibody, utomilumab, to pair with Kite’s Yescarta. The former drug has shown, in preclinical models, that it is able to enhance T cell mediated immune responses.

If it proves successful, the companies indicated in the press release, regarding the development, that it just be the beginning of the companies’ collaboration.

“Kite is committed to realizing the full potential of Yescarta and other cell therapy technologies across a range of cancers,” said David Chang, Worldwide Head of Research and Development and Chief Medical Officer at Kite. “We are pleased to collaborate with Pfizer on this study with utomilumab, which adds to the growing number of combination approaches we are exploring with Yescarta for patients living with lymphoma.”

How Novartis reacts to this should prove equally interesting, the company so far seems to have focused on expanding the number of the indications the treatment has rather than aiming for experimental means of improving efficacy. However, with a company the scale of Novartis, there are always going to be a number of irons in the fire and so it may simply be a case of wait and see.

Ben Hargreaves

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