Bavarian Nordic starts PhII of Prostvac in early-stage cancer

Bavarian Nordic CEO Paul Chaplin

Looking to expand its potential market for prostate cancer immunotherapy candidate Prostvac, Bavarian Nordic has announced that it's beginning a Phase II trial for its vaccine in early-stage prostate cancer, representing another possible avenue to broaden the candidate's reach.

The National Cancer Institute-sponsored study--across 6 locations and in between 90 and 150 patients--will seek to determine how well Prostvac works in eliciting an immune response in patients with prostate cancer that is found only in the prostate and has not metastasized.

"It is widely believed that using immunotherapy with patients who have a lower disease burden might benefit even more than the efficacy we have already seen in the later stage settings of prostate cancer, thus providing a larger commercial potential for the product candidate," Bavarian Nordic CEO Paul Chaplin said in a statement.

Having completed 8 total Phase I and Phase II trials, the candidate is in an ongoing, pivotal Phase III trial in 1,298 patients to evaluate its effect on overall survival. Previous studies have demonstrated the potential for added benefits by pairing the vaccine with anti-androgen therapies, radiation therapies or immune checkpoint inhibitors, Bavarian Nordic said in its statement.

And on that front, the Danish company in March agreed to partner with Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) to explore treatment combinations--a deal worth $60 million up front and potentially up to $1 billion in milestones.

The pairing is just one example of several in cancer vaccines as drugmakers seek out the possible benefits of such combinations. And as the partnerships continue, they're expected to be a driver in the cancer vaccines field, expected to grow annually at a CAGR of 27.26% through 2019.

Bavarian Nordic, which makes most of its money through its smallpox vaccine for government-contracted stockpiling, also is in the Ebola race through a partnership with Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Janssen subsidiary.

- here's the release