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Biotecnol taps into Cancer Research UK network for first trial

New drug hoped to have broad activity across multiple tumour types

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UK company Biotecnol Ltd has formed an alliance with Cancer Research UK to trial its lead drug, a new form of cancer immunotherapy.

The cancer charity will support the early-stage development of Biotecnol's first-in-class Tb535H, described as an anti-5T4 pan cancer T-cell engager. The drug has been designed using Biotecnol's Trisoma technology, which can be used to create antibodies that bind to three rather than two targets.

Tb535H recruits patients' cytotoxic T-lymphocytes (CTLs) and encourages them to direct tumour cells carrying the 5T4/WAIF1 antigen, which according to CRUK is "found on many different solid tumours and is thought to contribute to the spread of cancer cells".

Biotecnol says that these 'tribodies' can combine different functions, such as the ability to engage and redirect white cells against tumours whilst retaining the ability to target more than one epitope in a tumour target, or more than one target in the same tumour.

In preclinical studies, Tb535H has shown that it can kill several human carcinoma cell lines. It is designed to bind to the tumour antigen on the surface of the tumour cell and trigger primed CD8+ CTLs to engage and kill the target tumour cells. The announcement of the trial comes three years after Biotecnol said its Trisoma platform was completed.

WAIF1 was discovered by scientists at CRUK's Manchester Institute, and under the agreement Biotecnol and the charity's Centre for Drug Development will partner on taking the drug through a first-in-man trial - sponsored by the biotech company - with the charity providing expertise "in return for shareholdings in Biotecnol".

While the hope is that Tb535H will have broad activity across multiple tumour types, the partners are zeroing in on cancers that have few treatment options or have poor survival rates despite treatment, particularly mesothelioma, small-cell lung carcinoma (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), and renal cell carcinoma.

Biotecnol has already prepared the groundwork for trials in mesothelioma, an untreatable and highly-aggressive cancer which is caused by past occupational exposure to asbestos.

"Without this collaboration it might have been years before this treatment reached patients so we're pleased to work with Biotecnol to elevate their novel drug development platform," said Dr Nigel Blackburn, CRUK's director of drug development.

The biotech company's chief executive Pedro de Noronha Pissarra said the partnership "is important for Biotecnol's strategy of working with top cancer institutions in the immune-oncology field".

Immuno-oncology therapies that harness the body's own defences to fight tumours are widely acknowledged as the new frontier in cancer treatment, and are predicted to evolve into a market worth tens of billions of dollars in the coming years.

The first immuno-oncology antibodies such as Bristol-Myers Squibb's Opdivo (nivolumab) and Merck & Co's Keytruda (pembrolizumab) are already racking up blockbuster sales, and new approaches, including CAR-T therapies that involve the use of genetically modified T cells, are nearing the market.

Article by
Phil Taylor

11th August 2017

From: Research



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