Providence cancer research gets a boost with MedImmune agreement

December 02, 2011

Leading OX40 research, from left: Brendan Curti, M.D., Andrew Weinberg, Ph.D., Walter Urba, M.D., Ph.D., and immunology lab chief Bernard Fox, Ph.D.

A potential new cancer treatment now in development is being studied to examine its impact on the lives of people with cancer worldwide, thanks to Providence Cancer Center’s Andrew Weinberg, Ph.D., a team of colleagues, and a global partnership with MedImmune, the global biologics arm of AstraZeneca.

MedImmune’s partnership with Providence Cancer Center provides funding for continued OX40 research, including additional patient studies and the potential to advance OX40’s role in cancer therapy. It also is part of a recently announced agreement between MedImmune and the private company AgonOx to develop agonists using the OX40 platform.
“It is gratifying to work with a strong partner to take this scientific and therapeutic discovery forward,” said Dr. Weinberg, who is credited with inventing OX40 agonist technology. He and his scientific team, along with medical oncologist and researcher Brendan Curti, M.D., have spent years developing a strategy to exploit OX40, a marker on activated T cells, which when targeted with an antibody shows promise as a potential therapy for patients with cancer.
MedImmune will lead further preclinical and clinical studies of this tumor-specific T cell immunity stimulator for the potential treatment of cancer. OX40 agonist research also will continue in the Robert W. Franz Cancer Research Center located inside the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute at Providence Cancer Center, where the foundational preclinical and clinical development of OX40 has been conducted.
The center focuses on translational research – where researchers take novel discoveries from their laboratories and collaborate with physicians to “translate” those discoveries into new therapies that can directly benefit people being treated for cancer – particularly in the arena of immunotherapy which focuses on triggering the immune system to fight cancer.


Cancer immunotherapy research has been studied for decades, according to Walter Urba, M.D., Ph.D., director of cancer research at the Robert W. Franz Cancer Research Center. “The first line of defense against cancer in the body is the immune system,” said Dr. Urba. "OX40 agonists have shown very intriguing preclinical and clinical behavior in specific activation of T cells to attack tumors, and I am pleased to have MedImmune engaged in moving OX40 forward into additional human studies."