Working together to help patients with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and biotechnology company Amgen are entering a collaborative agreement to advance Amgen’s bispecific T-cell engager (BiTE) to a more developed stage–all the way from “A to Z.” This therapy, which treats the bone marrow disorder MDS, may be able to prevent patients from developing the blood cell cancer acute myelogenous leukemia (AML).
“This is a unique collaboration that explores this therapy for its potential in treating a disorder that affects thousands of people each year,” said Guillermo Garcia-Manero, MD, of MD Anderson, in a news release from the center. A large part of the collaboration involves MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program, “an innovative approach to prevention, early detection, treatment, and survival.” The goal is to convert the scientific discovery behind BiTE and transform it into a therapeutic with clinical impact on reducing cancer deaths.
Dr. Garcia Manero, who is the leader of the MDS/AML Moon Shot, further explained how MD Anderson is suited to work with Amgen on BiTE. “At MD Anderson we have unrivaled proteomics capabilities to explore new targets for this disease, and this novel approach may very well open up new potential treatments for our patients.” While working together, Amgen will retain all commercial rights to products, and MD Anderson may receive milestones and royalties from achieving key objectives successfully.
“We are excited about the new research opportunities this collaboration will open up in further exploring the potential of BiTE technology,” said Sean E. Harper, MD, executive vice president of Research and Development at Amgen. “BiTE antibody constructs represent an innovative immunotherapy approach that helps the body’s immune system target cancer cells. MD Anderson is a great partner in our quest to find potential new treatments for patients with serious illnesses.”
BiTE is designed to be a bridge between T-cells and cancer. The recombinant antibody contains two unique domains held together by a peptide. One domain binds to CD3 proteins on T-cells, and the other domain binds to antigens displayed on cancer cells. By bringing the two cell types together, T-cells may be more targeted toward killing malignant cells. The antigen that binds cancer cells can be tailored to attach to any number of proteins displayed by cancer types, enabling the technology to be suited for a wide range of cancer types.
“This long-term collaboration between leading scientists at MD Anderson and Amgen takes
advantage of significant advances in technologies available for target discovery through the MD Anderson Moon Shots Program,” said Samir Hanash, MD, PhD, director of the Red and Charline McCombs Institute for the Early Detection and Treatment of Cancer at MD Anderson. “The agreement covers the full scope of clinical development from identifying targets for this therapy in MDS to developing fully tested and approved new therapies.”
MDS is a disease primarily found in adults ages 60 years and older. Affected patients have an insufficient supply of healthy blood cells and are commonly anemic. The disease commonly develops into AML, but with treatments such as BiTE, this complication may be mitigated.