Drug companies to try a unified front against cancer

Leading pharmaceutical companies are joining together to form the National Immunotherapy Coalition in an effort to speed the testing of new types of cancer drugs that harness the body’s immune system to battle tumors. The cooperative effort will try to rapidly test various combinations of such drugs.

Leading pharmaceutical companies are joining together to form the National Immunotherapy Coalition in an effort to speed the testing of new types of cancer drugs that harness the body’s immune system to battle tumors. The cooperative effort will try to rapidly test various combinations of such drugs. Researchers believe that combinations of two or more drugs that engage different parts of the immune system might be effective for more patients than a single drug. Patrick Soon-Shiong, MD, a billionaire pharmaceutical entrepreneur who is the driving force behind the new coalition, says: "[W]hat we wanted to do is capture all these different molecules in the immunotherapy system." There are an extremely large number of possible combinations and arranging such trials one by one can be time-consuming. The coalition said it would have access to 60 drugs and would seek to enroll 20,000 patients by 2020. It will run early-stage trials of various combinations of drugs for up to 20 types of cancer, including breast, lung and prostate. Academic medical centers and community oncologists will be involved. The coalition currently includes Amgen, Celgene, and some smaller companies.