Over 40 % of people will get diagnosed with cancer and half of them will still succumb to it even after being treated. As such, cancer was responsible for an estimated 9.6 million deaths in 2018. These figures expose the increasing need for novel therapies that can eradicate cancer. One of the major problems is the variability inherent to cancers, even within the same clinical tumour subtype, as each tumour is characterised by its own set of alterations that have accumulated during differentiation.
Anti-tumour immunotherapy has gathered major attention in the search for innovative strategies to fight cancer. It merges the field of oncology with immunology into immuno-oncology, an exciting path that has the potential to dramatically improve treatment efficacy and specificity. Although generic immunotherapy (e.g. anti PD-1, PD-L1, CTLA-4) has delivered meaningful results in certain indications, 70 % of the patients do not respond to such a non-personalised form of immune stimulation. Redirecting the immune system against a specific target on cancer cells ensures a strong, long-lived, and broad immune response leading to tumour regression.
"Within oncology, it is essential to make personalised treatments available for patients with hard-to-treat and relapsed tumours that do not respond to standard treatment. Personalised immunotherapy allows to do that in a rapid, cost-efficient manner."
A schematic illustration of how the immune system naturally recognises a tumour cell is portrayed below. Since tumour cells are genomically distinct from healthy cells, they also contain a different set of peptides presented onto their surface via MHC molecules. T-cells recognise these aberrant peptides upon binding them and subsequently induce cell death in the tumour. By identifying these unique tumour MHC-binding neoantigens, the immune response can be primed/boosted against these antigens, evoking immunological memory and prolonged protection against the specific malignancy.
Different types of cancer immunotherapy treatments manage to launch an attack against tumour-specific targets using the immune system. For example, during cancer vaccination, dendritic cells are educated to prime cytotoxic T-cells against these tumour-specific antigens to specifically recognise and eliminate tumour cells.
"It is myNEO’s mission to efficiently identify neoantigens and select the most immunogenic epitopes for vaccine manufacturing through the myNEO ImmunoEngine bioinformatics platform for neoantigen prioritisation"
Selecting the right candidate is critical. Candidate neoantigens should be unique to the tumour so that the T-cell repertoire recognising such neoantigens has not yet been subjected to central tolerance mechanisms (Ott et al. 2019). Treatment strategies that combine a highly immunogenic neoantigen target with a technology able to direct an immune response immune system against all cells presenting such a target will generate broad and long-lived anti-tumour reactivity.
The myNEO bioinformatic platform is focused on identification of the highest quality targets per patient, by analysing tumour and healthy material. The bioinformatic analysis is integrated within the end-to-end solution ranging from sample dissection to construct design and mRNA production of the vaccine, the latter optimised for rapid production in low quantities.
Do you have a well-tested antigen delivery technology, that could be compatible with personalised targets?
Ott PA et al. An Update on Adoptive T-Cell Therapy and Neoantigen Vaccines. Am Soc Clin Oncol Educ Book. 2019 Jan;39:e70-e78