Combo of Bavarian Nordic's Prostvac and BMS' Yervoy yields promising PhI results

The latest results from a prostate cancer study could be a beacon of hope for the struggling cancer vaccine field. On Tuesday, Bavarian Nordic announced positive survival data from a Phase I combination study of its active prostate cancer immunotherapy candidate Prostvac and Bristol-Myers Squibb's ($BMY) Yervoy (ipilimumab), an immune checkpoint inhibitor.

Thirty study participants with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC) were treated with Prostvac and escalating doses of ipilimumab. The median overall survival was 31.3 months. It was 37.2 months for patients who got a 10 mg/kg dose, and 20% of patients in this group remain alive at the 80-month mark.

That's a significant improvement over docetaxel, which at the time of enrollment was the only FDA-approved treatment to improve overall survival, extending lives by a median 18.5 months.

Paul Chaplin, Bavarian Nordic president and CEO

"These data represent perhaps the most compelling survival benefit seen to date in this late-stage setting, and provide a strong rationale to continue to evaluate the combination of Prostvac and checkpoint inhibitors in follow-on clinical studies," Paul Chaplin, president and CEO of Bavarian Nordic, said in a statement.

The results are promising in the cancer vaccine field that has been rife with setbacks. The only approved cancer vaccine is Dendreon's ($DNDN) Provenge--a fellow prostate cancer vaccine--which stumbled out of the gate with a high price tag--$93,000--and ran into manufacturing challenges, not to mention competition from oral rivals Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Zytiga and Astellas and Medivation's ($MDVN) collaboration, Xtandi. Dendreon also struggled with cost control, ultimately filing for bankruptcy last November.

But several companies are hoping the combo approach will be the way forward for foundering cancer vaccines. Amgen, for one, ($AMGN) is testing its melanoma-fighter T-Vec with Merck's ($MRK) Keytruda, and Advaxis ($ADXS) is testing its prostate cancer candidate with Keytruda as well.

- here's the release

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