In a major step forward, engineers from MIT have designed nanoparticles that stimulate the immune system, helping it to attack tumors.
This could contribute significantly to other immunotherapy approaches now under development.
Many biotech companies working in the field of treatment of cancer are developing new and novel therapies that could potentially benefit from this new approach including Roche Holding AG, Xynomic Pharmaceuticals Holdings, Inc. (OTCPK: XYNO) and Can-Fite Biopharma Ltd..
Immunotherapies are the latest vanguard in the battle against many forms of cancer.
This promising strategy is designed to treat cancer by stimulating the body’s own immune system to attack tumors.
However, tumors are very good at suppressing the immune system and becoming invisible to the immune system, so these types of treatments don’t work for all patients.
It is anticipated that the new therapies may transition to a lead cancer treatment in the near future.
An emerging therapy discovery company on this path to providing solutions is Oncolytics Biotech Inc. Oncolytics is a development stage biotech company working on an immuno-oncology virus known as pelareorep.
Pelareorep is a safe and well-tolerated drug that bolsters the power of T-cells fighting cancer.
The work across this entire research area is advancing at an incredible rate and attracting some of the best minds in the biotechnology field.
New Nanoparticles May Help Other Advances
The brain trust of MIT engineers has managed to come up with a way to boost the effectiveness of one type of cancer immunotherapy.
The team working on the research say they showed that if they treated mice with existing drugs known as checkpoint inhibitors, along with new nanoparticles they have engineered that further stimulate the immune system, the therapy became more powerful than using the checkpoint inhibitors alone.
Implementing a multifaceted treatment in this way could allow cancer immunotherapy to benefit a greater percentage of patients, the researchers say.
“These therapies work really well in a small portion of patients, and in other patients they don’t work at all. It’s not entirely understood at this point why that discrepancy exists,” says Colin Buss PhD ’20, the lead author of the new study.
Oncolytics Biotech A Contributor to the Field
The mechanics of Oncolytics Biotech’s approach operate on this same premise that cancer grows in our bodies because our immune systems do not recognize these tumors as foreign or a threat.
The cancer effectively “tells” our immune system and therefore T-cells, to allow the tumor cells to grow and increase, instead of attacking and destroying it.
Immunotherapies – including checkpoint inhibitors – provide the means for our immune systems to recognize and then destroy the cancer.
The challenge though is data which show that as low as 1 in 5 patients respond to checkpoint inhibitors, which are the largest and fastest growing segment of immunotherapies for cancer.
This is the battlefront for Oncolytics Biotech’s pelareorep. The company’s treatment has the potential to increase the percentage of patients who respond to checkpoint inhibitors.
To prove out its concept, the treatment is being studied for potential combination with other treatments including Opdivo® from Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, Roche’s Tecentriq®, Pfizer’s and Merck’s KGaA’s Bavencio®, as well as Keytruda ® from Merck & Co. Inc.
The company is engaged in four ongoing studies now with Pfizer, Merck KGaA, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Roche.
Those studies involve checkpoint inhibitors, breast cancer, multiple myeloma, and pancreatic cancer.
In early progress, Oncolytics Biotech® recently presented clinical data supporting a predictive biomarker of Pelareorep response in breast cancer at the ESMO Breast Cancer Virtual Meeting. Important points of the AWARE-1 trial demonstrate pelareorep primes an adaptive immune response:
- Systemic delivery yields robust pelareorep replication selectively in tumor cells.
- Pelareorep administration increases CelTIL – known to be associated with positive clinical outcomes.
- Peripheral T cell clonality emerges as potential predictive and prognostic biomarker.
Combing Approaches Offers New Hope
After creating their nanoparticles, the researchers from MIT reported testing them in several different mouse models of cancer. In three separate approaches, they tested the oligonucleotide nanoparticles first on their own, then checkpoint inhibitors on their own, and finally the two treatments in combination.
Using the two treatments together produced the best results, by far according to the team.
“When we combined the particles with the checkpoint inhibitor antibody, we saw a vastly improved response relative to either the particles alone or the checkpoint inhibitor alone,” Buss says.
“When we treat these mice with particles and the checkpoint inhibitor, we can stop their cancer from progressing.”
While there remains no single path or magic bullet to treating cancers using this new approach, the indications have heralded many new opportunities to create effective treatments for some common forms of cancer.
Other companies are preparing to build on new and similar technologies, or potentially combine their treatments when possible.
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