Priming the immune system against solid tumor cancers
The most exciting developments in cancer treatment today involve drugs that activate a patient’s own immune system to destroy cancer cells, known as cancer immunotherapy or immuno-oncology. The goal of these therapies is to help the immune system to detect and attack cancer cells as well as to enable other anti-cancer treatments to work more effectively.
Immunicum’s approach to activating a patient’s own immune system against cancer is based on seminal discoveries by its scientific founders, led by Immunicum’s CSO Alex Karlsson-Parra. With decades of expertise in the field of immunology, this team discovered that dendritic cells, which are a key part of the body’s immune reaction cascade, could be sourced from a healthy donor, highly activated, and then administered into a patient’s tumor to activate the immune system against the cancer. These ‘allogeneic dendritic cells’, which have been activated by Immunicum’s proprietary process, could serve as an immune primer to increase the body’s own defences to specifically attack the cancer cells.
The allogeneic dendritic cells that are the basis for Immunicum’s technology platforms are designed to be potent immune primers that both recruit and activate the patient’s own immune cells, and stimulate them towards a targeted cell-killing (or: cytotoxic) immune response, which is required to attack cancer cells. In addition, Immunicum is exploiting these allogeneic dendritic cells in different ways to educate the immune system to recognize the cancer cells. The immune system recognizes foreign invaders or cancer cells by specific abnormal molecules, called antigens. The concept of “neoantigens”, a recent development in cancer research, is used to describe the specific mutated proteins for each patient’s cancer cells. Neoantigens are now increasingly recognized as important targets for immune system activation and considered a key part of stimulating a potent immune response in each patient.
Immunicum’s development pipeline includes three distinct approaches. Its lead product ilixadencel, currently in Phase II clinical evaluation, uses the patient’s own tumor as a direct neoantigen source by injecting the allogeneic dendritic cells directly into the patient’s tumor. Immunicum’s IMM-2 technology platform (formerly SUBCUVAX®-Adenovirus) combines allogeneic dendritic cells with selected antigens (e.g. oncoviral antigens) or neoantigens (either through predicted neoantigens or by accessing material from the patients’ tumor) and can be injected in a different site, for example subcutaneously as a vaccine approach. In a third distinct opportunity to boost the efficacy of ex vivo immune cell modification treatments like CAR-T, Immunicum’s IMM-3 platform exploits its allogeneic dendritic cells outside of the body to enhance immune cell production with the goal of supporting CAR-T treatment efficacy in treating blood cancers and potentially solid tumors.