The agreement is intended to develop new CD39-targeted therapeutics, including the investigational antibody TTX-030, for the treatment of cancer.
TTX-030 was recently cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to begin clinical testing in cancer patients. The companies expect to launch trials of TTX-030 during the first quarter of 2019.
“Exploring the tumor microenvironment as a source of targets that can be modulated to inhibit cancer growth holds tremendous promise,” Mo Trikha, PhD, vice president and head of oncology early development at AbbVie, said in a press release. “The Tizona team has generated compelling preclinical data for their TTX-030 program, and we look forward to a productive collaboration focused on rapidly advancing this novel first-in-class antibody.”
Mounting evidence has demonstrated that cancer cells can modulate their surrounding environment to create a suitable place for them to grow and expand. Among their strategies, cancer cells prevent immune cells from detecting and killing them.
CD39 is an enzyme that participates in the conversion of ATP — a pro-inflammatory molecule — into adenosine in the tumor environment. This creates an immunosuppressive surrounding that prevents immune cells from doing their job. Thus, inhibiting CD39 may represent an innovative and potentially effective approach to preventing tumor progression.
TTX-030 is a man-made antibody that blocks the activity of CD39. It not only prevents the formation of suppressive adenosine but also protects ATP from degradation, preserving its ability to stimulate anti-cancer immune responses.
“Tumors employ various strategies to create a [tolerant] microenvironment, which reduces the immune system’s ability to detect and fight cancer,” said Courtney Beers, PhD, vice president of immunology at Tizona. “Preclinical research shows that inhibiting CD39 may hold the key to restoring and bolstering immune responses against tumors.”
“In AbbVie, we have a partner who shares our passion for science and commitment to delivering breakthrough innovation to patients with cancer. We look forward to advancing this exciting program,” she added.
Under the terms of the new agreement, Tizona will be responsible for the clinical development of the immunotherapies through the completion of Phase 1b trials, upon which AbbVie has an exclusive option to lead global development and commercial activities. Tizona retains an option to co-develop and co-promote the therapies in the U.S.