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Cancer immunotherapy activates the immune system to attack cancer. Currently there are several products on the market and many others in the development phase. However, existing drugs typically aim to enhance the pre-existing anti-tumor immune responses (passive immunotherapy) with clinical activity in a limited number of cancer types. Targovax is developing active cancer immunotherapy products that have shown potential to activate the immune system of last-line refractory cancer patients with a wide range of solid tumors.
Figures below present a simplified model of how this adenovirus-based immunotherapy approach induces systemic antitumor T cell response.
The human innate immune system continuously monitors the body to recognize threats. Dendritic cells (DCs) are the link between the innate and the adaptive immune system. DCs process antigens and provide activating signals to the T cells in lymphoid organs. As a result, the systemic anti-tumor immune response is achieved by the activated T cells recognizing cells expressing the antigen.
Tumors have many mechanisms to hide from the immune system. Importantly, as most tumor antigens are non-mutated and essentially the same as in normal cells, and therefore hidden from the immune system, a meaningful anti-tumor response is not elicited. Cancers with high mutation rates, such as melanoma and non-small cell lung cancer, are considered immunogenic, since endogenous T cell responses against tumors often exist.
Current cancer immunotherapy products can be classified in three main categories:
None of these approaches efficiently modulate the immunological microenvironment at the tumor site which is needed for the induction and maintenance of tumor specific immune response in immune compromised settings.
Targovax’s adenovirus-based technology has been shown to induce a powerful and specific anti-tumor response even in immune compromised patients. Its lead clinical agent, ONCOS-102, administered locally, induces a systemic anti-tumor immune response (“in situ vaccination”) that involves:
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