New class of antibody drug shows promise for cancer patients

A Cancer Research UK-funded clinical trial has shown, for the first time, that a new class of antibody could benefit cancer patients whose existing treatments have stopped working.

The Phase I clinical trial, sponsored and managed by Cancer Research UK’s Centre for Drug Development, tested whether a type of antibody called IgE could be used to treat cancer. The drug, MOv18 IgE, was developed by researchers at King’s College London.

Currently, all antibodies approved for the treatment of cancer belong to a class known as IgG. Compared to IgG, IgE offers potential for enhanced immune system targeting of and potency against tumours, providing a more powerful weapon against cancer cells.

Results from the trial, published in Nature Communications by researchers from King’s College London and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, found that MOv18 IgE was well-tolerated in the majority of patients and was able to shrink the tumour of a patient with ovarian cancer who had not responded to conventional therapy.

With the safety of MOv18 IgE having been established in cancer patients, biotechnology company Epsilogen have licensed the drug and will continue its clinical development following this successful clinical trial.

Dr Nigel Blackburn, director of Cancer Research UK’s Centre for Drug Development, said: “We’re incredibly proud to have played a pivotal role in bringing the first ever IgE antibody into clinical trials. What’s interesting about IgE is its involvement in our body’s defence against parasites and the particularly powerful immune response it elicits. We hope that through further trials, we will see it successfully target cancer cells with the same voracity, opening up an entirely new treatment option for patients.”

Lead author on the study, professor James Spicer, professor of Experimental Cancer Medicine at King’s College London and consultant in Medical Oncology at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust (GSTT), said: “IgE is a completely new form of antibody therapy which has shown great promise in this Phase I trial.

“Our findings show that the drug was well tolerated in patients and shrunk a cancerous tumour in a patient with ovarian cancer. The results pave the way to development of an entirely new class of anti-cancer drug for people with chemotherapy-resistant cancers. The immunology expertise in King’s College London laboratories allowed us to undertake this trial of a completely new form of antibody therapy.”

Co-author professor Sophia Karagiannis, professor of Translational Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy at King’s College London, said: “Immunotherapy has shown enormous potential recently but there are still people with cancer who do not respond to conventional therapy.

“This trial builds on our previous work into the biology of IgE, including experiments in the laboratory suggesting that IgE could be an effective treatment that can offer additional benefits to complement those of established IgG antibodies in the clinic. While we are still in the early stage of trials, our next steps will be to evaluate IgE in larger and different groups of patients and to continue studying how IgE antibodies are able to wake up the patient’s immune system to fight different cancers.”

Dr Tim Wilson, Chief Executive Officer of Epsilogen, said: “The data published in Nature Communications, are encouraging and add further validation to support our belief that IgE antibodies have the potential to emerge as an entirely new treatment modality for patients with cancer. We have a robust clinical development plan in place to progress MOv18 IgE further into the clinic and the data generated will assist us in the development of our other IgE antibody drug candidates.”

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