Waking the body's troops to fight cancer
The current excitement dates back to the discovery that cancer cells evade immune attacks by manipulating immune cells at multiple checkpoints. Immune response is normally controlled at these checkpoints in order to prevent tissue damage due to overshooting immune reactions and autoimmunity. However, in an evolutionary process, cancer cells learn to shift the fragile balance of signals that T cells and other immune cells receive by immune-stimulatory and -inhibitory receptors on their surfaces, camouflaging themselves to prevent immune-system attacks.
A new treatment paradigm
What makes the novel immune therapies unique compared to existing cancer treatments is the lasting effect they apparently have in patients with hitherto incurable disease. “A good immunological answer lasts for a long time,” as Ed Bradley, Senior VP R&D at AstraZeneca’s US biologics arm MedImmune puts it. The company is one of the four major players in checkpoint modulation. “The big picture we’re seeing in clinical studies with over a dozen tumour types is antitumour activity in every type,” he adds.
Caught up in the buzz surrounding the new treatment paradigm, drugmakers are now frantically filling their pipelines with in-house or licensed antibodies against different checkpoint targets. At the same time, they’re also stockpiling add-on treatments to boost the effect of checkpoint inhibition as a backbone therapy, effectively pumping new life into areas such as cancer vaccines, adoptive T cell transfer and targeted cytokines.
Read the full background on cancer immune therapy in our print magazine!
- Global Market overview of approved drugs and most active players
- List of all recent license deals in the field
- Overview of all checkpoint targets in cancer immune therapy and most important clinical developments
- Interview with AZ Senior Vice President and MedImmune head Bahija Jallal, and MedImmune’s Senior VP, R&D and Oncology iMED head Ed Bradley
- Market opinions from clinical and financial experts