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Collaboration to investigate IMM-101 in difficult to treat cancers

Collaboration to investigate IMM-101 in difficult to treat cancers

3 August 2020
Image: Drew Hays

This will explore clinical trials with IMM-101, in combination with other treatments, in difficult to treat cancers, with a particular focus on epithelial cancers such as pancreatic cancer and sarcoma.

Immodulon, an immuno-oncology company, and the Champalimaud Foundation, a private, non-profit, research organisation in Lisbon, Portugal, have announced research intended to examine the potential use of IMM-101, in combination with other treatments, to achieve clinically favourable, anti-tumour directed cellular immune responses in advanced cancers including, but not limited to, pancreatic cancer, glioblastoma and sarcoma. The first studies are expected to commence in the second half of 2020.

Dr. Jaap Kampinga, Chief Executive Officer of Immodulon, commented: “We are thrilled to announce our collaboration with the Champalimaud Foundation. There is a clear unmet medical need for effective treatments against these devastating cancers. Despite the advent of immune checkpoint inhibitors, pancreatic cancer and sarcomas remain exceedingly challenging to treat, and novel combination treatments will be required to make progress in these cancers. The Champalimaud Foundation, as a centre of excellence, is well suited to researching such treatment regimens and to carry out these clinical studies. We are proud that the Champalimaud Foundation has selected IMM-101 as a backbone immunotherapy to develop novel personalised treatments, and we look forward to working further with this fantastic organisation.”

Dr. Markus Maeurer, heading the Immunotherapy/Immunosurgery programme, noted: “I am glad to be working together with the excellent Immodulon team. The quality and quantity of cellular immune responses in the biological therapy of cancer is key to achieving clinically relevant immune responses. Anti-cancer directed immune responses may exist in patients with cancer, yet they may become ineffective: they need to be ‘re-wired’. Newly elicited immune responses that specifically target cancer cells also need to have a certain quality and to be able to enter into the tumour tissue in order to be effective. Immodulon’s IMM-101 may help to bring us closer to achieve these goals based on available preclinical and clinical IMM-101 data and aid to design safe and effective therapies for patients with cancer, particularly for patients with ‘difficult-to-treat-cancers’, such as pancreatic cancer. We hope – by implementing IMM-101 in our strategies - to be able to elicit ‘smarter’ immune responses that are more effective in eradicating cancer cells and in establishing long-term, protective immune memory.”

‘Re-wiring’ immune responses - Personalised therapies for patients with cancer aim to direct immune cells against mutations, changes in the DNA, that are exclusively present in cancer cells, but not in healthy cells. If immune cells can be sufficiently activated and ‘trained’ to recognise these mutations, they may eliminate cancer cells without harming healthy tissue. These mutations, alterations in the genetic code, may be different for each individual patient.

Activation of immune cells needs an ‘alarm’ signal that activates and stimulates them to multiply. IMM-101 may help to provide this signal. However, this may not be sufficient in order to achieve a relevant clinical effect: immune cells recognising cancer cells need to have a certain quality and produce molecules that are able to fight off and ultimately eradicate cancer cells. Nevertheless, this often is not possible for immune cells from patients with cancer: they have a reduced ‘fitness’, they are exhausted and are not able to eliminate cancer cells effectively.