A new anti-tumour immune response drug for patients with metastatic melanoma has given positive results in clinical trials conducted by the University of Oxford and the UK biotech company Immunocore.
The trials into the use of tebentafusp for metastatic uveal melanoma mean the drug could now be used in future treatment.
Results from previous phase 1 and 2 clinical trials into tebentafusp found that this first-of-its-kind treatment showed great promise in helping the immune system fight off melanoma cancers of both the eye and skin. The phase 3 clinical trial for this drug is the first for an affinity optimised T cell receptor drug.
The trial results announced by Immunocore, the company behind the drug, show that tebentafusp works better for patients with untreated metastatic uveal melanoma, when compared to other treatment choices.
Bahija Jallal, CEO of Immunocore, said: “A positive survival benefit for tebentafusp represents a major step towards bringing a potential new treatment for cancer patients with a high unmet need. If approved, it would be the first new therapy to improve the overall survival in 40 years and to be specifically used in the treatment of metastatic uveal melanoma, a disease with poor survival where new therapies are urgently needed.”
Tebentafusp has come out of clinical trials led by Prof Mark Middleton, the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre’s Co-theme Lead for Multi-modal Cancer Therapies. He says there is now potential for this drug to come into the clinic, subject to regulatory approval, as early as next year.
“It is very exciting that our observations in the first trial of tebentafusp, that it could make some uveal melanomas shrink, have now been borne out in larger studies. There’s still a way to go but there is every hope that this will prove an option for the treatment of this difficult cancer quite soon,” explained Prof Middleton, Head of the University of Oxford’s Department of Oncology.
Uveal melanoma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer that affects the eye, and typically has a poor prognosis and has no accepted optimal treatment and management. After the cancer metastases, 50% of patients have life expectancy of less than a year.
Tebentafusp has the potential to be the first new therapy to improve the life expectancy of patients in over 40 years.