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Univ. Spin-Off Reports Cancer Immunotherapy Advance

For-Robin lab

Kate Rittenhouse-Olson, left, with company scientist Diala Ghazal. (Douglas Levere, University at Buffalo)

17 October 2017. A highly targeted synthetic antibody, developed by a university spin-off enterprise, was shown to destroy human breast cancer cells grafted in lab mice. The findings reported by the company For-Robin Inc. in Williamsville, New York, appear in the September 2017 issue of the journal Neoplasia. For-Robin founder and president Kate Rittenhouse-Olson plans to discuss the findings next week at the BioNetwork Partnering Summit in Laguna Niguel, California.

For-Robin is developing immunotherapy treatments for breast cancer that address the Thomsen-Friedenreich glycoantigen, absent or masked by carbohydrates in normal tissue, but present in several human cancers, including breast, colon, bladder, and prostate. The company licensed research by Rittenhouse-Olson, then a University at Buffalo microbiologist, that led to creation of an antibody called JAA-F11, designed to bind on and stop the growth of human cancer cells with Thomsen-Friedenreich antigens on their surface.

In the paper, the researchers tested a humanized form of JAA-F11 antibody, engineered to prevent rejection by the immune system, in lab cultures and mice. The results show in lab cultures the humanized antibody kills cells from both breast and lung cancer tumors. In mice grafted with human breast tumors, the antibody stopped the growth of these tumors, both working alone and combined with maytansine, a cancer-killing compound. The authors report the antibody also prevented tumor cells from binding with blood vessel cells to help prevent spread of the cancer, and non-cancerous cells were unaffected by the treatments.

The researchers believe the JAA-F11 antibody both alone and configured as an antibody drug conjugate, designed to more precisely deliver chemotherapy drugs to reduce adverse effects of conventional chemotherapy, can treat multiple types of breast cancer. Among these variations is triple-negative breast cancer that expresses no estrogen, progesterone, or HER2 receptors used as targets for other breast cancer treatments.

Rittenhouse-Olson recently left her professorship in microbiology to devote full time to For-Robin Inc. The company is more than a commercial venture to Rittenhouse-Olson. The enterprise is named for her sister Robin that died of breast cancer at age 31. As reported by Science & Enterprise in May 2015, the company received a $2 million Small Business Technology Transfer grant from National Cancer Institute for preclinical development of the JAA-F11 antibody.

“What we are focused on now,” says Rittenhouse-Olson in a university statement, “is fundraising and preparing for human clinical trials, which will include scaling up production of our antibody under controlled conditions that meet the requirements of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.”

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