LEXINGTON, Mass., Jan. 24, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Agenus Inc. (Nasdaq:AGEN) today announced it has entered into a research agreement with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) using Agenus' proprietary cancer vaccine technology.

The collaboration will test Agenus' cancer vaccine in combination with antibodies that are intended to target specific markers on tumor cells, such as CTLA-4 and PDL-1. This group of antibodies represents a new class of immunotherapeutic agents that are thought to have complementary mechanisms of action with cancer vaccines. The studies will be performed in the laboratory of Jedd D. Wolchok, M.D., Ph.D., a leader in the field of cancer immunotherapy. Dr. Wolchok serves as the Associate Director of the Ludwig Center for Cancer Immunotherapy at MSKCC as well as Director of Immunotherapy Clinical Trials.

"Collaborating with MSKCC and Dr. Wolchok's laboratory opens a new chapter in the development of our personalized cancer vaccine portfolio for targeting later stages of this disease," said Garo Armen, Ph.D., CEO of Agenus. "Partnerships with leading institutions are central to Agenus' strategy to bringing life-changing products for cancer patients to market faster."

Agenus' cancer vaccine is designed to expand and specifically program the army of T-cells responsible for killing tumor cells; however, as cancer grows it becomes smarter and increasingly builds an 'immune fortress' that can protect itself from the attack of T-cells. Therefore, combining a product that activates T-cells with an agent that blocks the signal preventing the T-cells from effectively killing the tumor could have highly potent outcomes.   

"Combination immunotherapy in cancer is increasingly becoming a key focus of research, and this collaboration will add to this important and growing knowledge base," said Dr. Wolchok. "Our interest in Agenus' cancer vaccine is that it contains many antigens that are genetically matched with the cancer as the product is derived from the tumor itself."