Oncology

Onkology Research 2; Nr. 102

The processes that lead to uncontrolled cell growth and the formation of tumors are extremely complex – making cancer a very difficult disease to combat.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in developing countries, with rates continually rising. If detected early, many cancers can be treated successfully. Cancer has different causes and takes many different forms. To date, more than 250 types have been identified. The processes that lead to uncontrolled cell growth and the formation of tumors are extremely complex – making cancer a very difficult disease to combat.

As our understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in the occurrence and spread of tumors is improving all the time, we can intervene directly in cancer progression. Cancer is primarily treated with biopharmaceuticals, in particular highly specific antibodies.

Diagnostic tests targeting the biomarkers that typically indicate a specific type of cancer allow doctors to make a differential diagnosis. And an accurate diagnosis is key to successful treatment.

Dual defense barrier for improved life expectancy

Thanks to an innovative combination therapy developed by Roche, patients with HER2-positive breast cancer now have significantly improved life expectancies. Approximately 20 percent of breast cancer patients are HER2-positive. In these patients, the number of HER2 receptors on the tumor cells is hugely increased.
HER2-positive breast cancer was previously treated with a combination of chemotherapy and a therapeutic antibody from Roche. The antibody attaches to the HER2 receptors. As a result, an important signaling pathway that promotes the growth of cancer cells is blocked. At the same time, the antibody marks the cells for destruction by the body's immune system.

Researchers in Penzberg then had the idea of using a second antibody that binds to a different part of the HER2 receptor and blocks another important signal pathway. This antibody has been on the market since 2013. The combination of chemotherapy and these two antibodies reduces the size of tumors, including metastatic tumors, in breast cancer patients.

CrossMabs – dual-action antibodies

Ein One antibody – two modes of action. The CrossMab technology developed by the researchers in Penzberg is what makes it possible. The bispecific antibodies produced with this technology can attach to two different structures simultaneously.

The first bispecific antibody from Penzberg reduces the formation of new blood vessels in tumors by inhibiting two growth factors simultaneously. The first arm of the antibody binds the growth factor VEGT in exactly the same way as Avastin, the successful therapeutic antibody that has been on the market for years. The second arm of the bispecific antibody attaches to the growth factor Angiopoetin 2, thereby amplifying the effect. The first clinical trials with this anti-VEGF/anti-Ang-2 antibody have been successfully completed.