April 23, 2015 / 2:30 PM / in 4 years

AstraZeneca, Juno latest to collaborate on immuno-oncology drugs

The logo of AstraZeneca is seen on a medication package in a pharmacy in London in this April 28, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth/Files

(Reuters) - A unit of AstraZeneca Plc has teamed up with Juno Therapeutics Inc to develop combination treatments that use the body’s immune system to kill cancer cells.

The partnership between AstraZeneca’s research and development arm MedImmune and Juno is the latest collaboration between companies intent on developing a new class of drugs known as immuno-oncology therapies, considered a breakthrough in cancer treatment.

The past year has seen tie-ups between Eli Lilly and Co and Merck & Co, Pfizer Inc and Germany’s Merck KGaA, as well as Bristol-Myers Squibb Co and Japan’s Ono Pharmaceutical Co Ltd, among others.

Immuno-oncology drugs activate the immune system, allowing it to recognize and destroy cancer cells.

This new wave of experimental cancer drugs, such as CAR-T therapies that directly recruit the immune system’s powerful T cells, are proving to be effective against tumors and could soon take the $100 billion global market for drugs that fight cancer by storm.

Under the partnership, MedImmune and Juno will test a combination of their drugs as a potential treatment for patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma — a type of lymph node cancer.

The trials will be conducted with MedImmune’s late-stage immunotherapy drug, MEDI4736 and one of Juno’s CAR-T cell therapy candidates.

Reporting by Amrutha Penumudi in Bengaluru; Editing by Simon Jennings

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