Roche lines up Bavarian Nordic vaccine for Tecentriq combo test in bladder cancer

Checkpoint Inhibitor
Tecentriq has been paired up with Bavarian Nordic’s cancer vaccine CV301 in advanced bladder cancer.

Combinations are where it's at in immuno-oncology these days, and Merck & Co. and Bristol-Myers Squibb have each paired their PD-1 meds with cancer vaccines from smaller players. Now, third-to-the-field Roche is following that strategy with its own offering, Tecentriq.

The Swiss pharma giant will test Tecentriq alongside Bavarian Nordic's CV301 in advanced bladder cancer. It'll supply the drug for a phase 2 study, which BN will conduct, starting around the end of the year, according to a release.

Originally developed by the NIH’s National Cancer Institute, BN's CV301 works by generating a T-cell response to two tumor antigens that are overexpressed in many cancer types, including bladder cancers.

Roche isn't alone in seeing the candidate's potential. Toward the end of last year, Bavarian Nordic kicked off a phase 1 trial that tests the vaccine in conjunction with Bristol-Myers' Opdivo in 40 non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients. The move came after Opdivo monotherapy failed a first-line lung cancer trial last August, ceding its NSCLC lead to Merck's Keytruda; combo treatments are seen as one way forward for the med.

RELATED: Bristol-Myers, Bavarian Nordic test Opdivo-plus-vaccine combo in lung cancer

At the time, Bavarian Nordic CEO Paul Chaplin hinted that the company is looking to “advance CV301 as combination therapy in additional indications,” adding that bladder cancer was on the radar.

More recently, Chaplin said the company sees "huge potential" in such cancer vaccine combos. Chief Medical Officer Chris Heery, M.D., added that there’s an increased willingness around the industry to partner checkpoint inhibitors with vaccines.

RELATED: Bavarian Nordic sees 'huge potential' in cancer vaccine combos, CEO says

Bavarian Nordic also has an arsenal of other cancer immunotherapies, including Prostvac, a late-stage candidate in advanced prostate cancer. That vaccine is in a phase 2 combo trial with Bristol-Myers’ Yervoy for the same condition.

Roche's Tecentriq first won FDA approval to treat advanced bladder cancer last May, becoming the first drug in the new PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitor drug class to secure a green light in the indication. The drug has since scored an approval in NSCLC.