The immune system is complex and requires an integrated approach to effectively and safely redirect it to fight cancer. In addition, each patient is unique, and patient-specific immune-monitoring is essential. For this reason, we believe that the ability to profile patients and design combination therapies will be key drivers of success in immuno-oncology.
An essential component in most combination therapies are checkpoint antibodies designed to enhance immune response to cancer. Cancers can effectively shield themselves from the immune system. In the presence of a native immune response in a cancer patient, checkpoint inhibitors can get past this shield, making tumors visible to the immune system again. However, if a native immune response is weak or absent, the inclusion of a cancer vaccine or agonist checkpoint antibodies may be required. Checkpoint antibodies work through multiple mechanisms such as latching onto proteins that cancer cells use to evade the immune system or by activating the immune system to help recognize the presence of cancer cells in the first place.
One way to improve upon the efficacy or breadth of patient response to checkpoint therapies is to target checkpoints in combination with each other. The reason why some patients do not respond to single antibodies targeting checkpoints in the first place, and why others stop responding after obtaining an initial benefit, may have to do with insufficient native immune response and/or insufficient mobilization of the other required components of the immune system. By combining several checkpoint antibodies as well as adding cancer vaccines to the mix, we believe that we can overcome deficiencies of a monotherapy I-O approach.
The powerful activity of the first generation of I-O approaches has been observed in subsets of patients. Our technologies and I-O strategies involve combination approaches that utilize our extensive assets which provide us with the unique advantage of combining checkpoint antibodies, cancer vaccines and vaccine adjuvants. Results from preclinical as well as early reported clinical results have given us confidence that our approach holds much promise for the larger universe of cancer patients.