Australian immuno-oncology company HaemaLogiX has signed an agreement with health and research institutions for commercialisation rights to an immuno-oncology agent designed to specifically target malignant cancer cells present in the bone marrow of multiple myeloma patients.
Westmead Institute for Medical Research, Western Sydney Local Health District, Children’s Medical Research Institute, and the University of Sydney finalised the agreement with HaemaLogiX late last week.
Myeloma is a blood cancer caused by malignant plasma cells that develop and multiply in the bone marrow. As bone marrow invaded by these malignant plasma cells is found in multiple areas of the body, the disease is often called multiple myeloma. About 1,500 people in Australia are diagnosed with the disease each year. It accounts for 15 per cent of blood cancers and 1 per cent of all cancers generally. Despite the recent introduction of new agents in the treatment of multiple myeloma almost all patients will develop drug resistance and the disease will eventually recur.
“This collaboration positions HaemaLogiX to be a strong competitor in the rapidly developing global immuno-oncology field and among a few companies that have an agent selectively targeting only the malignant myeloma cells, and not healthy cells,” said Bryce Carmine, Chairman and CEO of HaemaLogiX.
“This technology is similar to very promising agents referred to CAR T-cell (chimeric antigen receptor T-cell) therapies developed by other companies to treat non-myeloma blood cancers that have generated recent publicity.”
Assigning the commercialisation rights came after Westmead Institute for Medical Research and staff of the University of Sydney within the Western Sydney Local Health District conducted research to adapt the HaemaLogiX core antibody for use as a CAR T-cell. This research is being funded by a Cancer Council NSW Project Grant. The HaemaLogiX antibody has previously been tested in patients with the blood cancer multiple myeloma, and further clinical trials are ongoing.
HaemaLogiX together with the Westmead research team are preparing to test the novel CAR T-cell therapy in myeloma patients commencing in 2018. “If the clinical trial proves successful this agent may provide an additional option for patients with drug-resistant myeloma,” said Dr David Gottlieb, Professor of Haematology at the University of Sydney and senior physician on the Westmead Hospital Blood and Marrow Transplant Unit.
“Agents similar to this have been described by the US National Cancer Institute as a ‘living drug’ because they co-opt the patient's own immune cells to fight the cancer. Remarkable clinical results have been achieved in forms of leukaemia and lymphoma in patients who had exhausted all treatment options.”