This Biotech Is Working With Pfizer, Merck KGaA, Roche, and Other Leaders To Develop a Better Standard of Care for Breast Cancer

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Cancer is the 2nd-leading cause of death in the United States, responsible for 1 in 4 deaths nationwide each year. 

With 3.8 million cases as of January 2021 and 250,000 new diagnoses each year, breast cancer is by far the most rapidly spreading type of cancer among women. It’s also the 2nd most fatal, causing roughly 42,000 deaths per year. 

As cases continue to rise, the nation’s leading cancer researchers are working urgently to improve survival rates among breast cancer patients, especially those with later-stage metastatic breast cancer who have an abysmal 22% chance of surviving up to 5 years after diagnosis.

Oncolytics Biotech Inc. ONCY hopes to change that with its lead drug candidate, pelareorep. With multiple clinical trials completed and underway, the biotech’s immunotherapy drug candidate seems to offer the hope patients with metastatic breast cancer need, especially when combined with other leading treatments on the market today.

Who Is Oncolytics?

Oncolytics is a biotech focused on the cancer-fighting potential of reovirus, the foundation of its lead drug candidate, pelareorep. The company’s goal is to develop this into a treatment that can make tumors more susceptible to existing oncology treatments like chemotherapy, immune checkpoint inhibitors, and other types of immunotherapies, such as CAR T cell therapy and bispecific antibodies in solid tumors. 

As part of that focus, the Canada-based biotech is taking a collaborative approach to development by partnering with other biotech and pharmaceutical companies in the cancer therapy space. In 2019, for example, Oncolytics signed a co-development agreement with Pfizer Inc. PFE and Merck KGaA MKKGY to work on a combination treatment that uses pelareorep to enhance the effects of Bavencio — Pfizer/KGaA’s antibody treatment for Merkel cell carcinoma — to fight breast cancer, a tumor target where Bavencio can’t work on its own. This study is expected to complete the enrollment of 48 patients by the end of Q1 2022. 

Both Pfizer and Merck are among the top players in the breast cancer therapy market, making these co-development agreements and collaborations a key part of Oncolytics’ strategy for making its lead drug candidate the new backbone of immunotherapy treatment plans.

What Is Pelareorep?

Oncolytics’s proprietary drug candidate is a reovirus — a nonpathogenic, double-stranded RNA virus commonly found in water — that has the potential to selectively label cancer cells and engage the patient’s immune system while weakening tumor defense mechanisms. This dual process engages the innate immune response (for example, Natural Killer (NK) cells) and engages the adaptive immune response to cause tumor cell lysis (death). By doing so, pelareorep has the potential to work with existing cancer treatments like CAR T-cell therapy, bispecific antibodies and immune checkpoint inhibitors to produce an enhanced cancer-killing effect.

Check out the video below to hear Oncolytics CEO Matt Coffey talk about pelareorep:

When Will Pelareorep Be Available to Cancer Patients?

With 7 ongoing clinical trials studying pelareorep as a treatment for breast cancer, gastrointestinal cancer and multiple myeloma, Oncolytics is hoping to bring its proprietary immunotherapy to the market as quickly as possible. 

Its collaborative approach is focused on developing the drug as part of a combination treatment paired with some of the leading approved immunotherapy drugs for fighting cancer. 

Recently, Oncolytics presented updates on its Phase 2 trial studying pelareorep in combination with Incyte Corp.’s INCY anti-PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor for treating metastatic triple-negative breast cancer. The study will enroll 25 patients to receive a combined treatment of the 2 drugs over the course of about 6 months.

In November, it also administered the 1st doses of a combination treatment of pelareorep and atezolizumab — a checkpoint inhibitor manufactured by Roche Holdings AG RHHBY — to treat metastatic gastrointestinal cancers. About 55 patients will be split into 4 groups based on the specific type of gastrointestinal cancer they have and treated with various combinations of the drugs being studied.

While there’s no definitive date for pelareorep to hit the market, 2022 is shaping up to be a transformative year for Oncolytics as multiple studies reach completion. The results of these studies will shine more light on how quickly the company can move its drug candidate through later phases of clinical research and ultimately hopes to receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration. 

This post contains sponsored advertising content. This content is for informational purposes only and not intended to be investing advice.

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