Historically, cancer has been treated with combinations of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. In the last decade, immuno-oncology has emerged as an exciting new approach to cancer treatment. Immuno-oncology describes the process of harnessing the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. Similar to how the immune system was directed to fight infectious diseases such as polio and small pox, the next generation of cancer therapeutics aims to enhance the endogenous anti-tumor immune response in order to eradicate cancer.
How Immuno-Oncology Works
The anti-tumor immune response begins when tumor-derived neo-antigens enter a lymph node, are presented by antigen presenting cells, and subsequently activate T cells. These activated T cells proliferate and mature into functional anti-tumor immune cells. They migrate through the body looking for cells that express tumor antigens and eliminate them. Tumors have, however, developed a diverse array of techniques to suppress and evade the anti-tumor immune response.
The goal of immuno-oncology is to provide a boost at multiple critical junctions in the immune response cycle in order to strengthen and prolong the anti-tumor immune response. This can be accomplished by increasing the number as well as the potency of immune cells. Members of the TNF/TNFR superfamily (tumor necrosis factor/tumor necrosis factor receptor superfamily) have been shown to play an important role in the anti-tumor immune response.
Viatonix is developing novel TNF/TNFR-based compounds that stimulate the immune response through activation or inhibition of a variety of signaling pathways at different stages of the anti-tumor immune response cycle. These clinical and preclinical development candidates include asunercept as well as HERA-CD40L, HERA-CD27L, HERA-GITRL, HERA-LIGHT, and HERA-4-1BBL.
Advantages of Immuno-Oncology
The tremendous potential of immuno-oncology approaches is based on three main benefits that harnessing the body’s own immune system provides – specificity, adaptability, and memory (or durability). The immune system is able to recognize differences between healthy and cancerous tissues and directly attacks the tumor tissue without damaging healthy tissue. The immune system can also adapt to changes in the tumor, including metastases and mutations. Finally, the immune system is able to develop a durable response, or memory, which means that the anti-tumor immune cells will still be present if the tumor reoccurs.
The Future of Cancer Therapy
Immuno-oncology therapeutics are believed to be the future of cancer therapy, and Viatonix is at the forefront of this development. Viatonix’ innovative protein therapeutics will work well as stand-alone therapies and can also be effectively used in combination with traditional cancer therapies as well as other immuno-oncology therapeutics.