Innate Pharma’s immunotherapy (-22% on the stock market from today’s low) will not cure head and neck cancer, at least not immediately. The Marseille biotech, which is working to boost the immune system to fight cancer by injecting therapeutic antibodies, announced this morning the end of the phase III study, dubbed ‘Interlink-3’, in which monalizumab was combined with cetuximab in patients with recurrent or squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck previously treated with chemotherapy and PDL1 inhibitors, ie first and second line therapies.
The future of immuno-oncology lies in product combinations due to limited response rates in monotherapy.
The monalizumab antibody, which aims to reactivate “natural killer” NK cells, was discovered by Innate Pharma and the British giant has bought the rights to it. In return, Innate Pharma is eligible for milestone payments totaling a maximum of just over $1 billion (depending on the clinical progress of the indications), on top of the unprecedented $250 million upfront payment for a listed French biotech, recall financial analysts . “So far, Innate has received $450 million from AstraZeneca”, we calculate at Invest Securities. And if any of the treatments were to be commercialized, Innate Pharma would receive double-digit royalties as well.
Monalizumab in head and neck cancer was Innate Pharma’s most advanced clinical development and one of its most promising, but British giant AstraZeneca decided to halt Phase III evaluation after a futility analysis showed that the combination it did not reach the predefined efficacy threshold.
Hopeful in lung cancer
However, research on monalizumab continues in lung cancer through two important clinical trials: a phase III trial that recently enrolled the first patient, “Pacific-9”, for the most severe forms, known as “non-small cell, stage III, inoperable ‘, and a phase II, ‘NeoCOAST-2’, in early-stage lung cancer.
The Phase II clinical results presented in September by AstraZeneca of tests conducted in lung cancer with monalizumab in conjunction with its own product Imfinzi (antibody durvalumab), a reference treatment for this pathology, impressed the scientific community with a doubling of survival without progression compared to Durvalumab alone (response rate of 36% compared to 18% for Infimzi alone).
Innate is also continuing its own development of lacutamab (in Phase II) and its Anket platform. This new technology, which makes it possible to produce multispecific antibodies against cancer by targeting multiple targets simultaneously, is considered very promising.