France’s OSE Immunotherapeutics and Léon Bérard Cancer Center have established a research collaboration to use analysis based on artificial intelligence (AI) to identify new targets for cancer immunotherapies.
Under the collaboration, researchers will analyze tumor biopsies and patient data to identify the molecular players underlying resistance to PD-1/PD-L1 immune checkpoint inhibitors.
“We are very excited to begin a new collaboration with an expert team and … a premier cancer research center. The goal of this partnership is to identify and validate new targets that will help streamline the development of new treatment approaches for cancer, especially in difficult-to-treat tumors,” Alexis Peyroles, OSE’s chief executive officer, said in a press release.
Programmed cell death 1 (PD-1) is a protein found at the surface of immune T-cells. Binding of PD-1 to the PD-L1 protein — produced by cancer cells — prevents an immune attack, allowing cancer cells to grow uncontrollably. Targeting PD-1 and blocking its interaction with PD-L1 is intended to boost anti-cancer immune responses.
While cancer immunotherapies targeting the PD-1/PD-L1 proteins have revolutionized treatment, this approach is still ineffective in a significant percentage of patients, and some initial responders eventually develop resistance.
In the new collaboration, researchers will use an AI-based approach that will analyze gene expression in the tumor and its surroundings, known as the tumor microenvironment.
The findings from this collaboration will identify potential targets to generate new therapeutics using OSE’s bispecific checkpoint inhibitor (BiCKI) platform.
The BiCKI platform aims to inhibit key immune checkpoints, like PD-1, while simultaneously identifying innovative second targets. The approach may also be used to deliver signaling molecules (cytokines) that enhance the immune system’s response against the tumor and that modify the tumor microenvironment to allows immune cells to enter the tumor.
OSE recently presented its BiCKI platform in a talk titled “Inactivating Treg cells in tumor microenvironment to improve efficacy of checkpoint inhibitors” at the World Immunotherapy Congress in San Diego, California.
“BiCKI represents a new proprietary multi-specific technology that has the potential to transform the current anti-PD-1 standard of care for hard-to-treat cancers,” Nicolas Poirier, PhD, chief scientific officer of OSE Immunotherapeutics, said in another press release.
“Adding to our already strong immuno-oncology pipeline, our new anti-PD-1 bispecifics have the potential to extend the benefits of immunotherapy beyond inflamed tumors in a number of indications by reinstating sustained adaptive and innate immune responses that are naturally inhibited in the tumor microenvironment,” Poirier added.
Léon Bérard Cancer Center (CLB) is a leading institution in analyzing data from the Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) — a landmark cancer genomics program to characterize the molecular players driving cancer — with the goal of identifying new therapeutic targets.
“Our AI approach combined with our translational and immunological research platforms will enable us to analyze tumor immune parameters and to identify potential new pathways to address unmet needs for cancer patients,” said professor Jean-Yves Blay, MD, PhD, director of the Léon Bérard Cancer Center.
“This partnership brings together top experts in oncology research and translational science with the hopes of rapidly advancing the discovery of first-class treatment options for cancer patients. We are very pleased to work in collaboration on this cutting-edge research with OSE Immunotherapeutics,” he said.