Immunicum advances adoptive immunotherapy

Company reports promising preclinical results for its CD70 technology, which may provide a robust method to expand tumor-specific T cells with improved quality

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GOTHENBURG, Sweden—Early March saw Immunicum announce the publication of promising data for its CD70 technology for adoptive immunotherapy in the scientific journal American Journal Molecular Therapy—Methods & Clinical Development. According to Immunicum, the results “indicate a robust method to expand tumor-specific T cells with improved quality in comparison with established expansion protocols.”
In the published paper, titled “Allogeneic lymphocyte-licensed DCs expand T cells with improved anti-tumor activity and resistance to oxidative stress and immunosuppressive factors,”
Prof. Magnus Essand’s research team at the Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology of the Rudbeck Laboratory at Uppsala Academic Hospital in Sweden compared Immunicum’s patent-pending expansion protocol called CD70-CD3 with established expansion protocols.
Their findings indicate that T cells expanded by Immunicum’s protocols, compared to established protocols, have better viability, better ability to kill tumor cells in the test tube, as well as superior proliferative response during tumor cell killing when the cells are subjected to immunosuppressive factors that reflect the “hostile” tumor environment.
As Immunicum explains, adoptive immunotherapy with tumor specific T cells is a treatment strategy in which the patient’s T cells are isolated and in some cases, genetically engineered to specifically recognize cancer cells. But to have enough tumor-specific T cells, one needs an “expansion period” in the test tube before cells can be injected back into the patient.
There are currently two established expansion methods: the rapid expansion protocol and bead expansion protocol.
According to Immunicum, T cells expanded with these two methods and subsequently employed in clinical studies usually show a high sensitivity to immunosuppressive factors present in the tumor. As a result, the T cells lose their ability to kill tumors and then rapidly die off.
“Our preclinical studies now show that T cells that have been expanded with Immunicum’s CD70 technology for adoptive immunotherapy has greater potential to effectively eliminate cancer cells compared with the two established expansion protocols used today,” according to Immunicum’s chief scientific officer, Alex Karlsson-Parra. “It is further highly interesting that T cells expanded with our protocol express much lower levels of the immunosuppressing PD-1 receptor, which act as an immunological brake when the cells come into a hostile tumor environment.”
Immunicum, which has traded on NASDAQ since April 2013, indicates that its immunotherapy platforms are based on more than 30 years of research in the field of transplantation immunology. The company focuses on the development of cancer immunotherapies. Its two main groups of therapeutic cancer vaccines are SUBCUVAX and INTUVAX and its method of expanding tumor-specific T cells—the CD70 platform—is based on the Nobel prize-awarded discovery of the dendritic cell and its central role in the activation of the specific immune response.
“Since the raw material consists of allogeneic dendritic cells, Immunicum’s products can be produced in large scale,” the company notes. Its vaccines are now undergoing clinical trials in renal cell carcinoma and hepatocellular carcinoma.

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