German biotech company Micromet says MT103 proves effective in treating non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Seven patients who had failed at least three conventional treatments showed signs of recovery after receiving doses of the new drug, it said.
Micromet is developing novel, proprietary antibodies for the treatment of cancer, inflammation and autoimmune diseases.
It presented an update of an ongoing phase 1 clinical trial for its BiTE(R) antibody blinatumomab (MT103/MEDI-538) at the 10th International Conference on Malignant Lymphomas (ICML) in Lugano, Switzerland on June 5.
BiTE(R) antibodies are designed to direct the body's cytotoxic, or cell-destroying, T cells against tumor cells, and represent a new therapeutic approach to cancer therapy. BiTE antibodies have been shown to induce an immunological synapse between a T cell and a tumor cell in the same manner as observed during physiological T cell attacks. These cytolytic synapses enable the delivery of cytotoxic proteins from T cells into tumor cells, ultimately inducing a self-destruction process in the tumor cell referred to as apoptosis, or programmed cell death, PRNewswire says.
In the presence of BiTE antibodies, T cells have been demonstrated to serially eliminate tumor cells, which explains the activity of BiTE antibodies at very low concentrations and at very low ratios of T cells to target cells. Through the process of killing cancer cells, T cells proliferate, which leads to an increased number of T cells at the site of attack.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is medically classified as a hematological malignancy, meaning that it is a cancer which arises from the blood. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma may develop in any organ associated with the lymphatic system, such as the spleen, lymph nodes, or tonsils.
Training the immune system to fight cancer may be one of the best ways to keep it from coming back after several rounds of standard treatment. In most cases, surgery and radiation cannot get rid of every last cancer cell. Traditional chemotherapy may halt the growth of tumors, but it will not finish them off. Even after the best treatments, clusters of cancerous or pre-cancerous cells, called micrometastases, often drift around in the body and lodge themselves into vital organs.
To eliminate those lingering killers, many researchers have turned to cancer vaccines, which can convince the body to hunt down stray cancer cells and destroy them when they flare up. BiTE antibodies are another way to harness the defensive power of our immune systems.
Aaron Rowe writes in Wired, "When I spoke to Christian Itlin, CEO of Micromet, he said that many blockbuster cancer drugs are made from antibodies, and there is some evidence that they work by stirring up the immune system -- even though that is not how they were meant to operate. His company does intentionally what others have done accidentally -- making drugs that train the body to viciously attack cancer. In theory, their strategy could be used to combat many varieties of the deadly disease, but their treatment for lymphoma happens to be furthest along in the pipeline.
Since this was a very early trial, which was meant meant to assess the safety rather than effectiveness of the new drug, the good news should be a source of cautious optimism. Three more clinical trials of the BiTE antibody are starting in Germany. Two are for lymphoma. The newest one is meant to attack colorectal, gastrointestinal, and lung cancer."