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Promising new immunotherapy results in early trial

Monday April 11th 2022

A new type of immunotherapy has shown early promise as an effective treatment for a range of solid tumours.

Results from a phase I trial show that AFM24 redirects the body’s own natural killer cells and engages them to kill tumour cells, without having to go through a complex process to re-engineer a patient’s own cells, which is what occurs in CAR-T cell therapy.

An international team, which included teams from The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, UK, assessed the new treatment in 24 patients for safety and appropriate dosage, as well as its efficacy in solid tumours positive for EGFR.

They found it effective in one third who had advanced cancers that no longer responded to standard treatment.

It is believed the new treatment could also be safer and less complex than cell therapies such as CAR-T and might work against a wider range of cancer types.

Early findings have been presented at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting 2022.

Eight of the 24 participants responded to the immunotherapy and saw their cancer stop growing after being treated with AFM24 intravenously: two bowel cancer patients and one lung cancer patient who received the immunotherapy saw their cancer shrink or stop growing for more than three months.

The research team say the immunotherapy has a ‘warhead’ targeted at EGFR, which is commonly produced by lung, bowel, kidney, stomach, pancreatic and biliary cancers. It activates natural killer cells and directs them to cancer cells expressing EGFR which increases their ability to selectively kill cancer cells.

Dr Juanita Lopez, clinical researcher at The Institute of Cancer Research, and consultant medical oncologist at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, the trial’s UK lead, said: “This treatment is still highly experimental and our trial is at an early stage, but we are excited by its potential. It does not have to be personalised for each patient like CAR-T cell therapy, so it could potentially be cheaper and faster to use and might work against a wider range of cancers.”

Professor Kristian Helin, chief executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, added: “We have seen major strides in the use of immunotherapy for cancer over recent years, with particular excitement over the use of ‘cell therapies’ to direct immune cells at tumours, often by engineering a patient’s own cells.

“This new treatment is highly innovative because it finds a way to direct natural killer cells within the immune system to tumours without requiring complex and expensive re-engineering of a patient’s own cells.”

The next phase of research will further evaluate the effectiveness of AFM24.

Tags: Cancer | Pharmaceuticals | UK News

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