CytomX Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company developing Probody™ therapeutics platform for cancer treatment, and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, developing natural killer (NK) cell-based therapies, announced a collaboration to combine both entities’ expertise to develop novel strategies in cancer immunotheraphy. The partnership will focus on research on Probody-enabled chimeric antigen receptor natural killer (CAR-NK) cell therapies, a project known as ProCAR-NK cell therapies.
The Probody platform developed by CytomX consists of antibodies that bind selectively to tumors, avoiding healthy tissues. One of the critical limitations of traditional antibodies and next-generation antibody therapies, such as bispecific antibodies, immunotherapy combinations and antibody drug conjugates, resides in the toxicity caused by unspecific binding as many drug target antigens are also found on healthy tissues.
Probodies therapeutics are only activated in the tumor microenvironment thanks to a masked target binding region that is only made available when specific dysregulated proteases in the tumor tissue remove this mask from the antibody region, making it able to bind to its target on the tumor. In healthy tissue, the masked region remains unable to bind, according to CytomX preclinical data. The company is currently developing this platform for cancer immunotherapies and Probody drug conjugates.
The collaboration will be led, from MD Anderson, by Dr. Katy Rezvani, M.D. and professor who has long experience on NK-cell therapies research, and Elizabeth Shpall, M.D., professor. NK-cells are lymphocytes with great importance in the innate immune response, as they effectively kill tumor cells. MD Anderson researchers have engineered these cells to express CARs (chimeric antigen receptors) that target specific tumor proteins. This strategy has demonstrated significant anti-tumor results.
Dr. Rezvani commented on the potential of combining this platform with CytomX therapy in a news release, “By combining these advantages of CAR-NK cell therapies with the added targeting of this novel technology, we believe that we can create therapies that realize the full potential of the therapeutic class.”
The collaboration aims to integrate both platforms and create ProCAR-NK cell therapies, which will hopefully eradicate the limitations seen on CAR cell therapies, such as toxicity and safety. “The progress we continue to make within our pipeline has shown that Probody therapies offer important advantages over traditional antibodies, with the potential for creating safe and effective cancer immunotherapies and antibody drug conjugates. This collaboration will allow us to draw on world-class research from MD Anderson in the field of CAR-NK cell therapies and extend our platform to this exciting modality” concluded Sean McCarthy, D.Phil., chief executive officer of CytomX.