Unleashing the power of the immune system

Unleashing the power of the immune system

Approval to start phase IIb clinical trial and promising clinical data for a drug candidate. Those are two news recently reported from RhoVac and Alligator Bioscience seated at Medicon Village. The companies are paving the way for new immunotherapeutic strategies and the news are merely two in a string of positive events they´ve reported during the spring.

RhoVac and Alligator Bioscience are two examples of Medicon Village members that do revolutionary work in the field of immunotherapy.

Since RhoVac, in February, received FDA´s (Food and Drug Administration) approval in the US to start its Phase IIb clinical trial, the company has started recruiting patients for the trial sites in Denmark, Finland and Germany. Now, the company has also been granted approval to start the trial in Sweden.

-          This “string of pearls” on the news front for RhoVac lately, should be read as a clear indication of our ambition for reaching a big pharma partnership, early 2022, after phase IIb conclusion, explains Anders Månsson, Chief Executive Officer at RhoVac Group.

The trial investigates the efficacy of RhoVac’s drug candidate RV001 in preventing cancer recurrence, by inhibiting that the cancer spreads via development of metastases, after curative intent surgery or radiation in prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is, however, only the beginning.

-          There may be lots of opportunity for development of our drug candidate (RV001) for preventing or treating metastases also for other types of cancer. This is reasonable as there is nothing in the scientific rational behind RV001 that is specific to prostate cancer, Anders Månsson points out.

Innovation at the frontiers of immunotherapy

Also Alligator Bioscience recently reported good news when theUnited States Patent and Trademark Office's approved the patent for the drug candidate ATOR-1017, an antibody in clinical phase I for treatment of metastatic cancer.

-          ATOR-1017 is one the company´s  four most important clinical assets and I am pleased to get a formal acknowledgement that we have the exclusive rights for a foreseeable future. The patent approval also shows our active patent strategy, that maximises the protection of Alligator´s entire project portfolio on all global markets, US included, says Per Norlén, CEO at Alligator Bioscience.

The news is one of many that Alligator Bioscience reported during the spring.

-          I would like to highlight our bispecific drug candidate ATOR-1015, which received a lot of attention in connection with the positive interim results that were presented at AACR and ASCO, the world´s two biggest oncology conferences. Also, business development has delivered in the shape of a research deal with Scandion Oncology. And our collaboration with Biotheus has provided another milestone payment, Per Norlén points out.

A bispecific drug candidate activates two targets in the immune system, since it holds two activating sites joined in one molecule.

Medicon Village members are breaking new ground

With a host of new findings and drugs in the pipeline, members at Medicon Village are at the forefront of beating cancer with immunotherapy.

The scientific breakthrough of immunotherapy redefines the possible by becoming more effective, more precise and more personalizedthan current cancer treatments (surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy). So, what are the workings of immunotherapy?

Promising approaches to treat cancers

The immune system typically attacks what doesn´t belong in the body. But cancer cells have ways to dodge, shut down or even overpower an immune attack. So, what if you could engineer the immune system to weaponize it against cancer?

Immunotherapy, or immuno-oncology, uses the body´s immune system to fight cancer. It does so by boosting the immune system´s ability to recognise and attack cancer. And there are many promising approaches on the market or studied in clinical trials. Some are mentioned below.

Inhibitors block infiltrators

Checkpoints are proteins on some immune cells that act as an ´off-switch´ of an immune response – preventing it from being too strong. Cancer cells can turn the switch off and thereby hide from an attack. However, scientists have designed checkpoint inhibitors. These inhibitors block the switch and boost the immune cells, which now attack cancer cells.

Viral attack sparks explosion

Cancer targeting viruses show promise to treat cancer for several reasons. One includes that cancer has a weakened antiviral defence and is prone to infection. Another that virus causes cancer cells to burst. The dying cells release surface markers, so called antigens, which alerts the immune system and triggers an immune response that attacks other cancer cells

Strategies weaponize killer cells

Killer T cells, the ninja warriors of the immune system, are particularly effective against cancer, as they bind to surface markers on the cancer cells. So called adoptive cell therapy boosts the natural ability of the killer T cells to fight cancer. One approach involves selecting the body´s most active T cells and expand their numbers. Another approach involves genetically re-programming the T cells to enhance their cancer fighting skills.

Antibodies activate target missiles

Cancer cells can hide their surface markers from the immune system – dodging an attack. Antibodies are proteins that binds to the markers. And now, scientists can tailor antibodies against cancer specific markers. The antibodies then tag the cancer cells, turning the immune system into target missiles attacking cancer.

Cancer vaccines trigger attack

Vaccines may help prevent cancer or trigger an attack against existing cancer. The preventive vaccines target the virus leading to cancer. The cancer treatment vaccines mount an attack against cancer cells. These vaccines recognise proteins on particular cancer cells.

 

You can support new breakthroughs in cancer research – learn more at www.matspaulssonsstiftelse.mediconvillage.se

Photo (Viktor Holm): From left to right Kim Jansson, Jessica Petersson and Lill Ljung from Alligator Bioscience. 

 

 Written by Tanja Jensen, science writer

 

Facts

Lund university researchers and companies seated at Medicon Village are dramatically changing the landscape of immunotherapy. This includes:

- Researching tumour related signalling pathways or interaction with surrounding immune microenvironment that affects clinical response to immunotherapy

- Developing antibody-based pharmaceuticals for cancer treatment with focus on tumour-directed immunotherapies, in particular agonistic mono- and bispecific antibodies

- Developing a cancer therapy that targets metastatic cells to prevent cancer recurrence and progression after primary tumour therapy

- Developing a peptide drug that blocks a suppressor of the natural immune system, thereby reactivating the ability to attack and kill tumours

- Collaborating between industry, healthcare, and academia to strengthen and accelerate innovations and clinical implementation in oncology

 

 

Medicon Village Innovation AB