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GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has expanded the collaboration agreement with Adaptimmune to accelerate development of the latter’s lead clinical cancer programme, an affinity enhanced T-cell immunotherapy (GSK3377794) targeting a protein called NY-ESO-1 toward pivotal trials in synovial sarcoma.

The alliance is expected to push Adaptimmune’s T-cell receptor (TCR) engineered T-cell therapy, a new type of treatment that modifies a patient’s immune cells to detect and destroy cancer.

In June 2014, the companies signed a strategic collaboration and licensing agreement for up to five programmes, including the lead NY-ESO TCR programme, under which GSK has an option on the NY-ESO- 1 programme through clinical proof of concept, and, on exercise, will assume full responsibility for the programme.

Adaptimmune chief executive officer James Noble said: "We are delighted to broaden our collaboration with GSK, which is also fully committed to the development of this revolutionary T-cell therapy.

"We believe that our affinity enhanced T-cell programmes have the potential to deliver important clinical benefit to cancer patients, and it is therefore essential that we accelerate our efforts to meet their needs.

"We are working closely with GSK to expedite development of our affinity enhanced T-cell therapy targeting NY-ESO, and if we succeed in generating pivotal data consistent with that of our ongoing studies, we believe it has the potential to be the first engineered T-cell therapy to reach the market."

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As part of the expanded deal, the firms will accelerate the development of NY-ESO therapy into pivotal synovial sarcoma studies and also explore development in myxoid round cell liposarcoma.

In addition, they may start up to eight proof-of-principle trials exploring combinations with other therapies, including checkpoint inhibitors.

Adaptimmune will be responsible for carrying out the trials, which will be funded by GSK as well as share the costs of the combination studies.

"We are delighted to broaden our collaboration with GSK, which is also fully committed to the development of this revolutionary T-cell therapy."

GSK R&D SVP Oncology Dr Axel Hoos said: "At GSK we’re progressing a pipeline of immuno-oncology therapies to stimulate anti-tumour immunity in patients. As we highlighted to investors at our R&D event last year, this Adaptimmune collaboration is a key element of that pipeline and is part of a comprehensive programme for cell and gene therapy.

"With this expanded collaboration, we have the opportunity to accelerate the lead programme in synovial sarcoma toward pivotal trials and also to investigate several other tumour types and combine the T-cell therapy with immune-modulating therapies such as checkpoint inhibitors."

The expanded agreement gives potential development milestones to Adaptimmune solely in relation to the NY-ESO programme of around $500m, if GSK exercises its option and successfully develops NY-ESO in more than one indication and more than one Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) type.

Additionally, Adaptimmune will receive tiered sales milestones and, as previously disclosed, mid-single to low double digit royalties on worldwide net sales.

Image: Adaptimmune laboratory – Scientists growing research cells. Photo: courtesy of Adaptimmune Limited.