New Drug for Blood Cancers May Overcome Treatment Resistance

Treatment will be available for clinical trials in patients with certain types of leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphomas later this year.

Treatment will be available for clinical trials in patients with certain types of leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphomas later this year.

An experimental drug that overcomes resistance to immunotherapy in the treatment of cancers of the blood showed promising results during a recent pre-clinical trial.

Monoclonal antibodies have previously shown great promise in sticking to specific proteins on the surface of cancer cells and targeting them to be killed by the immune system. Many patients, however, do not respond or develop resistance to treatment.

The study, published recently online in the journal Cancer Cell, found that resistance to many types of antibody drugs can be mitigated by helping immune cells locate cancerous cells. Certain cancer cells have been found to draw monoclonal antibodies inside themselves to remain invisible to immune cells.

For the current study, investigators showed the new antibody, called BI-1206, effectively prevents the destruction process of the drug, which enhances the ability to kill cancer by binding to a molecule called FcγRIIB.

BI-1206 was remarkably successful in overcoming resistance in mice to monoclonal antibodies such as rituximab, which is currently utilized to treat different types of lymphoma and leukemia.

"With more monoclonal antibody treatments being developed, there is an urgent need to understand how tumors become resistant to them and develop ways to overcome it,” co-study lead Professor Mark Cragg said in a press release. “Not only does BI-1206 appear to be able to reverse resistance to a range of monoclonal antibodies, it is also effective at directly killing cancer cells itself."

BI-1206 will next move to an early stage clinical trial to evaluate safety and whether the drug shows anti-cancer effects in combination with rituximab in patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

"This exciting research has the potential to be a game-changer for people with white blood cell cancers that don't respond, or have stopped responding, to treatments like rituximab. It could also make immunotherapy for other types of cancer more effective too,” Cancer Research UK senior science information officer Emma Smith said in a press release. “The work was carried out in mice, so we'll have to wait for the results from clinical trials to find out if the treatment is safe and effective in people, but it's certainly a promising approach and could lead to more potent drug combinations that benefit patients."