A new type of immunotherapy shows promising activity against cancers caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), including cervical, anal and oral cancers.

Bintrafusp (aka M7824) is a bifunctional fusion protein that combines a receptor for TGF-beta, which promotes tumor growth, with an antibody that targets the PD-L1 checkpoint protein. Thus, this hybrid molecule targets two pathways tumors can use to evade the immune system.

Bintrafusp shrank tumors in about a third of people with advanced HPV-positive cancers in an early study. Two women with cervical cancer had complete tumor regression and remain on treatment. The one-year survival rate was 62%.

Julius Strauss, MD, of the National Cancer Institute, and colleagues concluded that bintrafusp “shows encouraging clinical efficacy” in people with HPV-positive cancers. A larger Phase II trial is now under way.