DORTMUND, Germany—Protagen AG, which describes itself as “a technology leader in the development of novel molecular diagnostic and companion diagnostic tests for autoimmune diseases and oncological indications,” announced recently the identification of novel protein biomarkers in prostate cancer, which are potential drug targets supporting novel strategies in precision medicine.
Using the proprietary Protagen SeroTag technology, the discovery was made in close collaboration with Prof. Helmut Klocker, of the Medical University of Innsbruck in Austria and the Oncotyrol Center for Personalized Cancer Medicine in Innsbruck, and Prof. Mark Rubin of Cornell University and Targos Molecular Pathology GmbH in Kassel, Germany.
Measuring serum autoantibodies in a liquid biopsy of prostate cancer patients, the team was able to successfully confirm tissue specific biomarkers via immunohistochemistry.
“This is a novel route to new and more specific biomarkers to allow for better detection of prostate cancer inflammation,” according to Klocker. “In cooperation with Protagen, we were not only able to identify new relevant prostate specific autoantigens—e.g. SPOP, SPAST, STX 18—but also show the orthogonal validation of this serum marker on tissue microarrays with our partners at Targos.”
“We’ve been working on the role of SPOP and its mutations in prostate cancer for quite some time. It is really exciting to learn more about the links to the immune system and the appearance of SPOP-specific autoantibodies in patient sera,” Rubin added.
“It is always a good cross-validation when two independent methods yield the same result. Validated biomarkers in immune oncology and other immune diseases are a valuable asset. We are very excited to work with Protagen together in this emerging field,” commented Dr. Thomas Henkel, CEO of Targos.
Added Stefan Müllner, CEO of Protagen: “There’s an unmet diagnostic need in prostate cancer diagnostics, and the commercial value of novel, more reliable options that don’t involve biopsies and improve follow-up of patients are very attractive.” He went on to express his pleasure that a study published recently in PLOS ONE, “Serum autoantibodies in chronic prostate inflammation in prostate cancer patients,” in collaboration with his company’s partners “underscores that SeroTag technology can significantly speed up diagnostic developments. Furthermore, SPOP plays a key role in the function of E3 ubiquitin ligase, which is a novel and interesting pathway for therapeutic intervention in cancer. Thus, the data presented in this paper also introduce a novel concept for drug target identification for stratified therapy and personalized medicine.”
Protagen specializes in the development of novel diagnostic and companion diagnostic tests to provide better and earlier diagnosis of autoimmune diseases and oncological indications. It uses its proprietary SeroTag biomarker platform to identify disease specific autoantibodies and believes it is on target to become the leading provider of autoantibody diagnostic products, specifically targeting diseases with an unmet need for effective diagnostics.
The diagnostics are very much intended to help drive drug discovery efforts, with Protagens’s chief business offer, Dr. Georg Lautscham, telling DDNews, “SeroTag is the immune system’s guide to novel drug targets. The generation of autoantibodies implies that these proteins are important in the disease process and therefore pinpoint to relevant cellular pathways and potential drug targets. The interlink between these targets and the presence of autoantibodies in human serum enables the selection of appropriate patient populations for more targeted and more efficient therapies, i.e. a true precision medicine approach.”
Currently, Lautscham says, Protagen is looking for pharma cooperation partners, especially in autoimmune diseases, but the research shows that applications in other areas, like oncology, generate relevant and attractive results.
“Furthermore, the study confirms the applicability of SeroTag as the Immune Systems guide to novel drug targets,” he adds. “This is a new business opportunity for Protagen we are following. Our unique data repository from around 14.000 patients from more than 20 indications offers excellent opportunities for our cooperation partners and licensing options for Protagen. Initially, we analyzed autoantibody signatures and their linkage to drug targets in SLE [systemic lupus erythematosus], Sjögren, RA [rheumatoid arthritis] and prostate cancer. An attractive field we are targeting today is immuno-oncology.”