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Engineered Immune Cells to be Explored for Solid Tumors

Chemotherapy vials

(National Cancer Institute)

31 May 2017. A cancer research center and biotechnology company will examine genetically engineered immune system cells as possible treatments for solid tumor cancers. The agreement sponsors research by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York to evaluate technology by MabVax Therapeutics in San Diego as the basis for developing cancer immunotherapies with a patient’s own T-cells from the immune system.

Under the agreement, Memorial Sloan Kettering researchers will review antibodies developed by MabVax as candidates for chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapies. Chimeric antigen receptors are proteins on the cell surface that attract an antigen — a protein generating antibodies — fighting the cancer. T-cells are taken from cancer patients, and genetically modified to express chimeric antigen receptor proteins. The engineered T-cells are then grown in the lab in large quantities and infused back into the patient, where they attract the antigen proteins and fight the cancer. Early clinical trials of this technique, says National Cancer Institute, show the technique has promise against advanced blood-related cancers.

MabVax’s lead product is a human antibody code-named HuMab 5B1 that serves as a platform for specific cancer treatments. The company developed HuMab 5B1 from blood samples provided by cancer patients at Memorial Sloan Kettering, who were given carbohydrate antigens associated with solid tumor cancers: lung, sarcoma, melanoma, neuroblastoma (brain), breast, colon, and ovarian cancers. The antibodies generated by the patients are then extracted and screened against tumor cell targets to find those that best seek out and bind to those targets. A HuMab 5B1 derivative is in an early-stage clinical trial as a treatment for pancreatic cancer.

In this study, Memorial Sloan Kettering researchers will assess antibody targeting mechanisms from HuMab 5B1 when used in T-cells engineered with chimeric antigen receptors in lab animals grafted with human pancreatic and small cell lung cancer. MabVax says previous tests of the targeting mechanisms in lab cultures show enough promise so far to warrant evaluation in animals.

The company is providing Memorial Sloan Kettering with a second set of HuMab 5B1 components for development into chimeric antigen receptor T-cells for tests in both lab cultures and animals. The agreement calls for the cancer center to advance the research through preclinical stages, for the company to prepare an investigational new drug application for review by FDA.

The work at Memorial Sloan Kettering is expected to be done in the lab of Michel Sadelain, director of cell engineering for the cancer center. MabVax has an option under the agreement to license chimeric antigen receptor T-cell inventions that result from the research. Financial aspects of the agreement were not disclosed.

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