NOVEL ANTIBODY SHOWS STRONG POTENTIAL FOR LUNG CANCER THERAPY

The antibody developed at UMMS is licensed to EvoGenix, which plans to fast-track it for clinical development.

April 10, 2006

WORCESTER, Mass. — Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School have developed a novel monoclonal antibody that kills lung cancer cells, yet leaves normal cells untouched.

Created in the laboratory of Kenneth L. Rock, MD, UMMS professor and chair of pathology, the antibody binds to the surface of tumor cells and initiates a process called apoptosis, which is an internal cellular mechanism that causes the cancer cells to self-destruct without affecting healthy tissue. The antibody also helps direct other natural immune mechanisms to target and kill the tumor cells.   The antibody is particularly effective against human lung cancer cells and may have a therapeutic effect on other types of tumors.  “Lung cancer is a devastating disease and we sorely need better, more effective therapeutics for it,” Dr. Rock said. “While we still have some important work ahead of us, I believe this antibody has excellent prospects to be developed as a new therapy for lung cancer, and perhaps other tumors.” 

The antibody, which Dr. Rock named DMF 10, has shown strong results in severalstudies on multiple cancer cell lines and in animal models.   To further the clinical development of the antibody, and to make the necessary modifications that will allow for DMF 10 to be tested in people, UMMS has partnered with  EvoGenix , a leading antibody therapeutics company based in Sydney Australia, with offices in 

Mountain View, California. EvoGenix has licensed the rights to DMF 10 and Dr. Rock will join the company’s scientific advisory board to help direct further development of the antibody.

“We are very delighted to be working with Dr. Rock and UMass Medical School,” said Steffen Nock, PhD, president of EvoGenix USA.  “We believe the data on Dr. Rock’s antibody are so strong, we will work to fast-track this antibody for clinical trials.”

Ironically, the first clues that the antibody DMF 10 may be a potent cancer killer was an unexpected finding for Dr. Rock’s team—and one they thought was a failure. In the late 1990s, Dr. Rock and his lab were exploring the basic biology of receptors on the surface of immune system cells called T-cells.  Scientists routinely use cancer cell lines in such work, because the cancer cells proliferate so robustly.  The antibody DMF 10 was first created to bind to the cell surface in hopes of yielding new data about the receptors that control the development of T cells. “What happened was, we failed to identify the receptors we were searching for but instead found an antibody that ended up killing our cell lines,” Dr. Rock remembers. “Then we stepped back, and started to evaluate the results and realized that we may have found something important.” 

Dr. Rock and his lab went on to explore the properties of the killer antibody, to see if it affected other cells, or other functions, that would rule it out as a potential therapeutic. In research published last year in the journal Cancer Research, Dr. Rock’s team showed that DMF 10 was able to prevent the onset of lung cancer and melanoma in mice, when the mice where simultaneous given the antibody and active cancer cells. The antibody also reversed the growth of established lung and melanoma tumors in mice, and showed no toxic effect at all when tested on healthy mice. 

“There are several important steps ahead of us to evaluate the antibody’s efficacy in people,” Dr. Rock said.“However, at this time, given what we understand about antibody therapies, this candidate looks very hopeful.” 

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), l ung cancer  remains the leading cancer killer in the United States among both men and women. Last year, approximately 172,000 Americans were diagnosed with lung cancer and 160,000 people died from the disease, according to ACS estimates.

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About UMMS: The University of Massachusetts Medical School, one of the fastest growing academic health centers in the country, has built a reputation as a world-class research institution, consistently producing noteworthy advances in clinical and basic research.  The Medical School attracts more than $174 million in research funding annually, 80 percent of which comes from federal funding sources. UMMS is the academic partner of UMass Memorial Health Care, the largest health care provider in Central Massachusetts. For more information visit www.umassmed.edu .

About EvoGenix: EvoGenix was incorporated in August 2001 and listed on the ASX in August 2005, under the code EGX. The company has established proprietary technology and industry expertise in the identification and development of protein and antibody-based drugs. EvoGenix is exploiting this know-how through technology collaborations with partner companies and the development in-house of wholly-owned products.EvoGenix recently entered a significant technology collaboration with pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline and expects to form further such technology alliances over the next 12 months. OVP (EGX-010) is the first product to be developed by the company, with internal work on this potential osteoporosis treatment essentially complete. Two antibody products targeting viral disease and cancer, respectively, are at an earlier stage of development, while a third directed at the treatment of leukemia is under evaluation.   EvoGenix aims to introduce one new antibody into its pipeline each year. 

Contacts:  Michael Cohen, 508-856-2000;Cell: 508-868-4778; Michael.Cohen@umassmed.edu ; EvoGenix , Steffen Nock, PhD, president, 650-430-2335 snock@evogenix.com