Pfizer Gears Up for Cocktail Therapy to Combat Cancer


Pfizer, a renowned pharmaceutical company, acclaimed for its wide variety of therapeutic products has geared up with Merck KGaA to test a combination therapy of novel cancer drugs by next year.

It is hoped that if this trial proves to be successful it would pave way for a new generation of immunotherapy extending the life of cancer survivors to few more years.

The Set Back

Recently, Pfizer has been knocked back when companies like, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck launched checkpoint inhibitors, the pioneers of immunotherapy for cancer treatment. Checkpoint inhibitors popularly known as PD-1 or PD-L1 treatments, are antibodies in general that help the body to overcome the barriers in destroying the tumor cells and initiate an attack on them. This treatment is effective only in advanced stages of tumor helping out one third of the patients. Meanwhile, the remaining two-thirds go untreated. This drawback has triggered Pfizer to try out a combination therapy, after its success in a new breast cancer drug, Ibrance that yielded $430 million during the first three months of its sales.

The cock-tail

Researchers have decided to use Avelumab, Utomilumab and a drug under code name OX40 in the combination therapy. Utomilumab, is a monoclonal antibody that binds to 4-1BB (CD-137) protein receptor found in T cells and natural killer cells, thereby, activating them and eliciting an immune response against the cancer cells.  This drug is well known for providing anti-tumor immune response. Avelumab is a checkpoint inhibitor under development by Pfizer in collaboration with Merck of Germany.  It is believed that when Avelumab acts as a checkpoint inhibitor, OX40 and Utomilmuab would enhance the immune response of the system.

Upcoming Strategy

If this combination therapy yields successful results it would put Pfizer in the lead of immunotherapy making a great fortune as all three drugs to be used in the cocktail are made by Pfizer.  It is on its way to build a leading cancer franchise with various alterations within the management of the company.

In order to accelerate its strategy of combination therapy, Pfizer has two other trials going on under its roof.  A Phase III clinical trial for tyrosine-kinase inhibitor (TKI) kidney cancer drug Inlyta is being combined with Avelumab and also VS-6063 an ovarian cancer drug of Verastem is being combined with Avelumab in a phase I clinical trial.  

With abundant plans it is highly likely for Pfizer to be split next year into two groups.  One group will be devoted to developing innovative drugs while, the other would be committed in commercializing the already well established drugs of the company.

On the other hand, scientists have decided to maneuver on identifying the risk-ratio i.e. the maximum changes that the immune system could intake.

The chief medical officer in Pfizer’s cancer division, Mace Rothenberg commented, “We want to find the best benefit to risk ratio, because we don’t want to make a treatment that is worse than the disease”.

Cancer patients are keeping their fingers crossed for the success of this cocktail to serve millions of people with cancer guaranteeing them a better and longer life.

Featured image credit: Top view of tablets antibiotics and pills © GezaIII (Stock Photo ID: 127546724)

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