Amgen has signed two partnership agreements with The University of Texas’ MD Anderson Cancer Center to advance the development of 16 of its early-stage oncology therapies.

The multi-year alliance will focus on leukaemia, multiple myeloma, myelodysplastic syndromes, small-cell lung cancer and other non-lung cancers having small-cell histologies.

This arrangement covers Amgen’s drug candidates that are approaching clinical development, as well as therapies which are currently under-process with the cancer centre’s translational medicine capabilities.

Amgen Translational Sciences and Oncology senior vice-president David Reese said: “These agreements build on a long history of collaboration between Amgen and MD Anderson, including a number of different efforts which helped to enable the advancement and regulatory approval of Amgen’s first bispecific T cell engager.”

“The field of immuno-oncology is rapidly evolving and combining resources from both organizations could be important in answering key scientific questions.”

The partners will primarily work on bispecific T cell engager (BiTE) and chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell programmes, intended for different or same targets, along with specific small molecule therapies.

The first agreement, which will run for five years, will initially see Phase I clinical trials for BiTE antibody constructs and CAR T cell therapies to treat multiple myeloma and small cell lung cancer.

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The second, four-year deal will evaluate these T cell programmes for tackling leukaemia and myelodysplastic syndromes in various multi-institutional pre-clinical and clinical studies.

MD Anderson Cancer Medicine division head Patrick Hwu said: “The field of immuno-oncology is rapidly evolving and combining resources from both organizations could be important in answering key scientific questions.

“The collaboration allows MD Anderson to study up to 16 different oncology treatments which we hope will lead to rapid development and advancement of important therapies into clinical practice.”