British drug-maker AstraZeneca has entered into a clinical study collaboration with Japanese pharmaceutical firm Kyowa Hakko Kirin for a Phase I/Ib immuno-oncology trial of two separate combinations of three investigational compounds in multiple solid tumours.

The Phase I/Ib trial will evaluate AstraZeneca’s anti-PD-L1 antibody, MEDI4736, in combination with Kyowa’s anti-CCR4 antibody, mogamulizumab, and the British firm’s anti-CTLA-4 antibody tremelimumab in combination with mogamulizumab.

MEDI4736, tremelimumab and mogamulizumab are part of a new class of cancer treatments called immunotherapies, which use the body’s own immune system to help combat cancer.

Both MEDI4736 and tremelimumab work by blocking signals that help tumours avoid detection by the immune system, while mogamulizumab suppresses some of the immune cells that shield tumours from the immune system.

"With recent progress in the field of cancer immunotherapy, we have the potential to bring significant benefits to patients."

As part of the deal, the two firms will co-fund the trial, which will be conducted by Kyowa Hakko Kirin.

The Phase I part of the trial is expected to establish a recommended dose regimen, while the Phase Ib will evaluate the safety and efficacy of the two combinations.

Results from these trials will determine the future clinical development of the combinations.

AstraZeneca chief medical officer and executive vice-president of Global Medicines Development Briggs Morrison said: "We believe that combination therapy in immuno-oncology has the potential to be one of the most effective ways of treating cancer.

"Our partnership with Kyowa Hakko Kirin provides the opportunity to explore two novel and exciting combinations."

Kyowa Hakko Kirin’s managing executive officer, vice-president and head of research and development division Yoichi Sato said: "With recent progress in the field of cancer immunotherapy, we have the potential to bring significant benefits to patients.

"Given the potential synergistic activity of our anti-CCR4 antibody when combined with immune checkpoint inhibitors, we look forward to collaborating with AstraZeneca to explore these combinations in multiple types of cancer."

Currently, the two firms are carrying out a broad programme of immuno-oncology combination trials, including MEDI4736 with Incyte’s oral indoleamine dioxygenase-1 (IDO1) inhibitor, INCB24360 and MEDI4736 with Advaxis’ immunotherapy vaccine, ADXS-HPV.