On November 8th, a representative from Lycera Corp., a biopharmaceutical company based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, presented the poster, “Novel Synthetic RORγ Agonist Compounds as a Potential Anti-tumor Therapeutic Approach,” at the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer annual meeting. Lycera’s novel drug candidate has the potential to treat autoimmune disease and cancer due to its ability to reprogram immune cells.
“High potency, orally available compounds are rapidly advancing at Lycera and are showing promise as a cancer immunotherapy approach,” said Gary Glick, PhD, founder and chief scientific officer of Lycera, in a news release. “This important research provides significant additional confirmation of their potential benefits in both mono and combination therapy. We look forward to continuing our efforts to advance this important research platform.”
Continued investigations are warranted due to positive data produced in studies of RORγ agonists. RORγ, a nuclear receptor transcription factor, can drive the activation and differentiation of immune cells, including Th17 (helper T-cells) and Tc17 (cytotoxic) T cells, two types of T cells that enhance the immune response to cancer cells both by direct immune system activation and by decreasing immune suppression.
In their studies, researchers successfully increased immune cell activity and survival and promoted cytokine production in cells. Additionally, the agonists decreased tumor immunosuppression, as evidenced by enhanced effector T cell to T-regulator cell ratios and reduced PD-1 expression. Boosting the correct T-cell functions boosted anti-tumor mechanisms and alleviated immune suppression.
This one-two punch makes Lycera’s drug candidate unique from other medications. “While research involving immune-oncology approaches to treat cancer is expected to have a substantial impact in the years ahead, most agents in development are biologics with single mechanisms of action,” said Dr. Glick. “Lycera’s proprietary and wholly owned program based on RORγ agonists represents a completely new approach that is shown to have multiple anti-cancer mechanisms.”
On top of these benefits, RORγ agonists also increased survival of animals with induced MC38 colon cancer, suggesting clinical impact of RORγ agonist monotherapy to inhibit tumor growth and increase long term survival of cancer patients.