San Francisco-based biotech Exelixis is to team with Bristol-Myers Squibb in a series of trials investigating its own drug combined with BMS’ Opdivo. 

Initially, the collaboration will test Exelixis’ Cabometyx (cabozantinib) – a small molecule inhibitor of c-Met and vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 (VEGFR2) – in combination with either one of or both Opdivo and Yervoy – BMS’ two leading PD-1 inhibitors – in a phase 3 trial in kidney cancer.

Additional trials are also planned in bladder and liver cancer as well as other tumour types.

“The safety and efficacy data from the phase 1 clinical trial evaluating [Cabometyx] in combination with Opdivo are consistent with the preclinical scientific rationale for combining these two therapeutic modalities,” said Exelixis President and CEO Michael Morrissey.

Fouad Namouni, head of development in oncology at Bristol-Myers Squibb, also commented: “We look forward to working with Exelixis, bringing together our knowledge and experience in oncology, to evaluate the potential clinical value of combining these therapies to treat multiple tumours.”

Both Cabometyx and Opdivo have received US and EU approval for use in treated renal cell carcinoma as well as both being currently investigated in phase 3 liver cancer trials.

Following the news of the collaboration, Exelixis shares jumped 6%, bringing its total gains to more than 50% this year to date.