A new collaboration between GeneCentric Therapeutics and researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is aimed at further understanding bladder cancer patients’ responses to immunotherapies.
Moreover, researchers hope to discover new biomarkers of disease progression and to be able to identify patients more likely to respond to immune checkpoint inhibitor therapies.
“While the five-year survival rate for all bladder cancer patients is 77 percent, when the cancer has metastasized, survival is less than 12 months. Checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy has been effective in treating some bladder cancer patients but has been associated with significant adverse events in others,” Myla Lai-Goldman, MD, CEO and founder of GeneCentric, said in a press release.
“Our UNC collaboration will build on our knowledge of bladder cancer subtypes and other biomarkers to determine their potential to predict disease progression and drug response,” she added.
Our immune system has a series of checkpoints that prevent immune responses against the body’s own cells. One of these checkpoints is the programmed cell death 1 (PD-1) pathway.
Tumor cells are known to “hijack” this mechanism by producing the PD-L1 ligand, which binds to the PD-1 receptor on immune cells, preventing the immune system from killing them.
PD-1 and PD-L1 inhibitors were designed to unleash the immune system and improve responses against tumors, but only some bladder cancer patients seem to benefit from the approach.
To understand why some patients fail to benefit from immune checkpoint inhibitors, GeneCentric will collaborate with William Kim, MD, a distinguished professor of medicine and genetics in UNC-Chapel Hill’s department of medicine and division of hematology.
Specifically, Kim and his team will review data from metastatic bladder cancer patients and perform a detailed molecular characterization of their tumors. Ultimately, their goal is to identify biomarkers that help predict cancer progression, and identify patients more likely to respond to immunotherapies.
“While our understanding of the tumor and immune biology related to bladder cancer is evolving rapidly, meaningful progress for invasive disease has been difficult,” Kim said. “This collaboration will generate data to support important research intended to generate new insights regarding disease progression and response signatures to current therapies as well as accelerate the advancement of novel treatments.”