Cancer Immunotherapy: Mixing, Matching, And Making Nice
This article was originally published in Start Up
Cancer immunotherapy's potential payoff is big enough that acknowledged competitors are settling disputes, potential competitors are forging alliances, and start-ups like their chances of success. Profiles of Annias Immunotherapeutics, Costanoan Immunotherapies, and Unum Therapeutics.
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Every would-be developer of cancer immunotherapeutics faces the same basic problem: how to get the body's immune system to destroy cancerous cells without harming healthy ones. The founders of Annias Immunotherapeutics Inc. think they have found a way to help the body push through immune tolerance and become better able to seek and destroy solid tumors; the trick is targeting a virus that has recently been discovered to be present in certain types of tumors, but not in surrounding healthy tissue.
Unum Therapeutics Inc. is developing a new way of treating cancer that combines components of two different immune-system cells, natural killer cells and T cells. The start-up's therapeutic approach calls for modifying patients' own T cells with a hybrid molecule, called an antibody-coupled T-cell receptor , then co-administering them with antibodies designed to recognize specific proteins on the surface of tumors.
Costanoan Immunotherapies Inc. aims to immunize cancer patients with polymer particles, or beads, that display antigens and other immunomodulators in regular patterns. Data in animals show that Costanoan's antigen-bearing beads stimulate an immune response stronger than antigens presented as peptides alone.