Biotechnology company BioNTech AG recently announced the publication of a study entitled “Mutant MHC class II epitopes drive therapeutic immune responses to cancer” in the internationally renowned journal Nature. The study reveals a relevant new immunological principle for the development of cancer immunotherapies and was conducted in collaboration with researchers from the Translational Oncology (TRON) at the University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany and the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, California.
Tumor-specific mutations are ideal targets for cancer immunotherapies as these mutations are not expressed in healthy tissues and can be potentially recognized by the immune system. The team identified tumor-specific mutations able to trigger an immune response in three independent rodent models of skin, breast and colon cancer. Remarkably, a considerable part of these mutations was found to be immunogenic being recognized by specific immune cells known as CD4+T cells, suggesting that the fraction of cancer mutations recognized by immune cells is at least ten times higher than what has been previously reported. This observation is especially important in the context of cancer immunotherapy as the immune recognition of cancer-specific mutations is essential for a successful and effective strategy.
“This novel insight indicates that most human cancers may be eligible for successful cancer immunotherapy. However, every patient’s tumor possesses a unique set of mutations that must first be identified, which means that targeted vaccine approaches need to be individually tailored. Our aim is to make truly personalized cancer immunotherapies affordable and broadly available.” said the co-founder and CEO of BioNTech Dr. Ugur Sahin in a news release.
The study suggests a new strategy for personalized but still broadly applicable cancer therapy for any patient, where the patient’s cancer genome data called the “mutanome” is used to design a custom-made mRNA cancer vaccine targeting multiple CD4+ immunogenic mutations. The team found that vaccination with these mRNA vaccines confers a strong antitumor activity in mice, even in aggressively growing tumors. Researchers believe that this new personalized strategy can be used by itself or in combination with other cancer treatments.
BioNTech is currently conducting a first-in-concept clinical trial (NCT02035956) in patients with melanoma in Germany and Austria where each patient’s tumor is sequenced to create an individually tailored cancer vaccine. This clinical trial is currently recruiting participants with advanced malignant melanoma. For more information please contact Alexandra Kemmer-Brück via Alexandra.Kemmer-Brueck@biontech.de or Dr. Doreen Schwarck-Kokarakis via Doreen.Schwarck@biontech.de or by phone +49 (0) 6131 9084 ext 0.