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Discovery of Innate Immune Mechanisms of a Novel Microbial-Based Approach for the Treatment of Lung Cancer

By December 7, 2017No Comments

Qu Biologics Inc., a biopharmaceutical company developing Site Specific Immunomodulators (SSIs), a unique platform of immunotherapies designed to “reboot” the body’s innate immune system, has just published collaborative research with Dartmouth College detailing the mechanism of action and efficacy of Qu’s lung-targeted SSI, QBKPN, for the treatment of lung cancer.

It has long been recognized that acute infection can potentially trigger the spontaneous remission of cancer. However, the ability to harness this phenomenon for the treatment of cancer has been hampered by a lack of knowledge as to how to evoke this response in a safe or consistent way. A collaboration between scientists at Qu and Dartmouth’s Norris Cotton Cancer Center and Geisel School of Medicine has led to the discovery of the immune mechanisms by which QBKPN SSI, a microbial-based immunotherapy developed by Qu Biologics, may overcome these historic limitations. In a series of studies published in OncoImmunology, investigators applied a preclinical cancer model to dissect the mechanism by which QBKPN is able to consistently reduce lung cancer burden. An important highlight of their findings was that adaptive immune function, which relies primarily on T cells and B cells, was not necessary for QBKPN anti-cancer efficacy. Rather, QBKPN was found to enhance cancer cell recognition and eradication by Natural Killer (NK) cells and shift macrophage function from tumor-promoting to tumor-destructive. This distinguishes the mechanism of action of SSIs, like QBKPN, from other cancer immunotherapies. Importantly, the therapy was active against lung cancer and an aggressive metastatic-like melanoma, demonstrating that the organ-targeted approach of SSI therapy may be applicable to a variety of cancers.

This exciting preclinical work was followed with a small Phase 1/2 trial in patients with non-small cell lung cancer done in collaboration with Dr. Stephen Lam at the B.C. Cancer Agency, which demonstrated that QBKPN treatment was safe, well tolerated and induced anti-cancer immunological changes. Importantly, QBKPN treatment reduced expression of both PD-1 and PD-L1, molecules that inhibit immune cells from attacking cancer.

Collectively, these findings show that QBKPN treatment is able to both activate innate immune anti-cancer effector functions and overcome cancer-induced immune evasion strategies. “In order for the immune system to effectively fight cancer, simultaneous activation of multiple anti-cancer effector mechanisms is required. Treatment with QBKPN stimulates diverse intrinsic pathways by which the innate immune system is capable of clearing malignancy in a safe and effective way. This research is an important development in cancer immunotherapy,” stated Dr. Shirin Kalyan, co-author of the study and Qu’s Director of Scientific Innovation. Dr. David Mullins, study author and Assistant Professor at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, added, “We have identified a novel pathway by which bacterial products can activate anti-tumor immunity, even in the context of metastatic disease; these data open a new chapter on the application of bacterial-derived therapies for cancer, offering potential mono- and combinatorial-therapy options to treat a variety of cancers using organ-targeted therapy.”

“We are excited about the implications of this important pre-clinical and clinical research and the broad potential of SSIs in cancer treatment,” noted Dr. Hal Gunn, CEO of Qu Biologics. “The ability to direct the immune system’s powerful response to microbial pathogens to treat cancer in a safe and targeted way is now within reach and we look forward to our next clinical oncology studies to assess clinical endpoints important to patients such as survival.”