Allogene, SpringWorks to Test Drug Combo in Multiple Myeloma Trial

Xconomy San Francisco — 

Springworks Therapeutics and Allogene Therapeutics have agreed to collaborate on a clinical trial to test a combination of an investigational cancer drug from each biotech in patients with multiple myeloma.

The experimental treatment from Springworks, nirogacestat, is one of the four drug compounds that the company took off the Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) shelf when it spun out in 2017.

Stamford, CT-based Springworks (NASDAQ: SWTX) is studying nirogacestat in a Phase 3 trial enrolling patients with desmoid tumors, rare growths that form in the connective tissue and, while benign, can cause debilitation and disfigurement.

The other half of the combination will be ALLO-715, an experimental allogeneic CAR-T therapy that South San Francisco-based Allogene (NASDAQ: ALLO) designed to target a tumor protein called BCMA, or B-cell maturation antigen—a tack that many in biopharma are pursuing in an effort to tackle the rare but deadly cancer of the bone marrow.

As distinct from autologous treatments, which are made from a patient’s own living cells, allogenic treatments use immune cells drawn from the blood of healthy donors. Such “off-the-shelf” cell therapies could shorten the time it takes to produce these CAR-T treatments and get them to patients. The Allogene therapy, which uses TALEN gene-editing technology it licensed from Cellectis (NASDAQ: CLLS), is in Phase 1 testing.

The combination will be tested in patients whose disease isn’t or has stopped responding to treatment, and whose disease has returned after a period of remission. About 32,000 new cases of multiple myeloma are expected to be diagnosed in the US this year, according to the American Cancer Society.

The idea underpinning the SpringWorks-Allogene combo is that nirogacestat would block BCMA from sloughing off the surface of myeloma cells, making the cancer cells easier targets for an anti-BCMA therapy.

SpringWorks says it has preclinical evidence that nirogacestat can improve the activity of such therapies.

Under the deal terms, Allogene will run a Phase 1 study of the combination, which the companies anticipate will start in the second half of this year, and cover associated development costs. Allogene and SpringWorks will assemble a joint committee to oversee the study.

SpringWorks made a similar deal in June, signing an agreement to work with GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) to test nirogacestat alongside belantamab mafodotin, an antibody-drug conjugate by GSK that targets BCMA.

That study, a Phase 1b trial, is slated to start this quarter, SpringWorks said in December.