PARIS & BOSTON—A new collaboration focused on an immunotherapy approach to treating cancer is underway between Neovacs and Dr. Robert Kerbel and his research team of Sunnybrook Research Institute of Toronto. The organizations will be collaborating on the preclinical development of Neovacs’ VEGF Kinoid in hopes of securing proof of concept of this approach for treating colorectal and ovarian cancers.
“Our cooperation with Neovacs demonstrates the commitment of the Sunnybrook Research Institute to contribute to the development of innovative therapies in cancer. Thanks to this agreement we hope to enable patients suffering from a colorectal or ovarian cancer to benefit from an innovative and potentially very efficient therapy,” Kerbel commented in a press release. Kerbel is a senior scientist at Sunnybrook and part of the institute’s Odette Cancer Research Program. One of the research areas focused on by his group is the development of preclinical strategies to improve the efficacy of cancer therapy for patients with advanced visceral metastatic disease without increasing toxicity.
Neovacs’ proprietary technology focuses on inducing a polyclonal immune response within patients. A Kinoid is developed by “chemically linking the cytokine of interest to a foreign carrier protein, KLH (keyhole limpet hemocyanin), and then treating the resultant compound to inactivate the cytokine,” as explained on the company’s website. Neovacs’ Kinoid vaccines harness a patient’s immune system “to neutralize the deregulation involved in the development” of disease.
Cancer growth and metastasis depends heavily on manipulation of the vasculature, or blood vessels, around tumors. By sending out their own blood vessels, tumors secure the necessary nutrients, blood and oxygen (tumor sites are generally hypoxic, or low in oxygen) to continue growing and spreading. In both colorectal and ovarian cancers, vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF-A) plays a significant part in tumor vascularization. As noted on the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s Genetics Home Reference website, “This growth factor induces proliferation and migration of vascular endothelial cells, and is essential for both physiological and pathological angiogenesis … This gene is upregulated in many known tumors and its expression is correlated with tumor stage and progression.” Should the Kinoid approach prove successful in these cancer types, the targeting and neutralization of VEGF-A could help curb metastasis.
“This partnership with an internationally respected scientific research center, the Sunnybrook Research Institute, demonstrates the interest shown by the scientific community towards our technology,” remarked Dr. Geraldine Grouard-Vogel, chief scientific officer at Neovacs.
Neovacs believes the Kinoid technology offers a variety of benefits over existing approaches, including a broad therapeutic response, high patient tolerance, long-lived efficacy, convenience and low cost—the company notes on its site that “a typical annual treatment is expected to require three to four intramuscular injections” and “require the administration of approximately 1 mg of Kinoid vs. well over 1 gram for current monoclonal antibody treatments.”
Excluding skin cancers, the American Cancer Society notes that colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both sexes in the United States. Though the death rate with regards to colorectal cancer has been in decline for several decades, according to the American Cancer Society, it still remains “the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women in the United States, and the second leading cause in men.” The World Cancer Research Fund ranks it as the third most common cancer worldwide.
As for ovarian cancer, the American Cancer Society reports that diagnosis rates have been slowly declining over the last 20 years, though this cancer type still ranks fifth in cancer deaths for women, “accounting for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.” The World Cancer Research Fund ranks it as the seventh most common cancer in women worldwide.