Although companies are by nature competitive and that can impede collaboration, several participants mentioned the willingness of drug companies to collaborate in the development of combination cancer therapies, especially if they suspect their investigational agent would work better with another company’s drug and they did not have something comparable in their portfolio. “They would rather do it with two of their own drugs, because it makes life easy, but if it’s a really good idea, there is a lot of willingness to collaborate,” Dr. Engelman said, based on his experience working with several drug companies. Dr. Cantley concurred, adding, “The barriers are not that high if the data are really convincing. Where there’s compelling science, people will want to collaborate. Companies are very forward thinking about it.”
Dr. Lutzker said that even when a company already has a similar compound in development, if another company’s compound is performing better and would increase the likelihood of a successful combination, “we would go after that company to do a codevelopment plan. It just has to do with where you are in your own portfolio.” Dr. Canetta added that when he is asked by the press how his company’s competition is going with Roche, in regard to developing new melanoma drugs, he responds, “We are competing against melanoma, not Roche, and if there are modalities that make sense to put together, that’s what we will do.”
Dr. Blackman stressed the need for communication, collaboration, and transparency among companies developing cancer therapies. “We have to realize that we are all pretty much working on the same things, and the only way we will succeed is to list indications we would be willing to go to with our own internal combinations and maybe with the partner combination. At least in these early phases, we need to talk to each other, and make sure that we agree that we are either going to all go into the same space because we think there is some compelling biological reason and fundamental differences between the agents, or we are going to go in different directions to cover more ground and learn more as a field about where this combination may be active.” Dr. Lutzker noted that he has had a lot of discussions with companies in which they’ve made each other aware of what is in their drug development pipelines for combinations.
Dr. Blackman suggested that there be more collaborations between academia and industry in which academic institutions conduct the retrospective analyses of samples and data from previous trials and other studies to find biomarkers for patient selection so that the next clinical trials can be more successful and compounds are not shelved prematurely because a lack of patient selection made them perform poorly in clinical trials.