Medigene has created an automated method for detecting newly created cancer molecules called neoantigens as they arise in a developing tumor.
The company believes the high-volume method will prove more efficient at spotting the molecules and evaluating their suitability as treatment targets. This means the method could help improve cancer immunotherapy, facilitating the development of more personalized and safer treatments.
Medigene’s CEO, Dr. Dolores Schendel, will discuss the method on the final day of the Immuno-Oncology Summit in Boston on Sept. 1, according to a company press release. The conference started Aug. 28.
The presentation will deal with how Medigene’s technology for developing new types of T-cell-based treatments and dendritic cell vaccines could also lead to therapies that target neoantigens.
When a tumor develops, its DNA mutates rapidly to help it grow quicker and improve its chance of surviving. The mutations generate neoantigens.
The antigens can differ among people with the same type of tumor. But they are rarely found in high levels in healthy tissue, making treatments that target them relatively safe.
Schendel’s talk will focus on the latest information the company has gathered on how to select more effective and safer neoantigens for cancer immunotherapies. The title of the presentation will be “High-Throughput Functional Screening of Neoantigens for Vaccines and TCR-Based Adoptive T Cell Therapies.”
Medigene’s automated screening platform can identify both neoantigens and T-cell receptors that cancer therapies could be built around. The software analyzes a neoantigen’s ability to trigger T-cell responses. It also identifies molecules that are similar to those found in healthy tissue.
This robust approach to choosing neoantigens that could be used to develop cancer therapies provides an extra measure of safety in treatment development, researchers said.
Two publications in the journal Nature support the idea of developing cancer therapies around neoantigens. They showed that neoantigens could trigger strong immune responses in patients with advanced melanoma. You will find the articles here and here.
The researchers who did the studies used a computer algorithm to identify neoantigens that would trigger T-cell responses. The level of CD4 T-cells they discovered in the melanoma patients was 50 to 60 percent of what the algorithm had predicted. CD8 T-cell responses were lower, with patients having only 16 to 29 percent of what the algorithm had forecast.
Medigene said the findings underscored earlier observations that selecting neoantigens that activate CD4 T-cells is more successful than selecting neoantigens that activate CD8 T-cells. The company said its new high-volume screening approach should do a better job of choosing treatment targets than conventional methods.
At the moment, Medigene is not planning to develop neoantigen-based therapies. But personalized treatments targeting neoantigens are likely to play an important role in cancer treatment, it said. And it now has a tool that can help in such development.
The company is developing a T-cell-based cancer immunotherapy. A Phase 1/2 clinical trial of the treatment, known as MDG1011, is expected to start before the end of 2017.